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Monday, July 19, 2021

Music Week

Tweet: Music Week: 52 albums, 7 A-list, continuing to catch up with mid-year lists as best I can, so range is pretty wide ("something for everyone", as they say); intro more on everyday life, which sucks, except for brief exceptions.

Expanded blog post, July archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 35855 [35803] rated (+52), 212 [212] unrated (+0).

Lots of records below. Single biggest source of inspiration (by a large margin) was Phil Overeem's latest mid-year list. I think when the list came out there were 33 albums on it I hadn't heard. Down to 10 now, although at Phil's acquisition rate I may still be down 30. Played what I hadn't heard from Robert Christgau's July Consumer Guide, and revisited Sa-Roc (well, also Aesop Rock, but no change there). For what little it's worth, I still consider Sons of Kemet's Black to the Future to be a full-A album, and if that isn't all the Shabaka Hutchings you can handle, he plays his ass off on Anthony Joseph's The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives -- this year's other full-A album. (Well, there's also the Mingus at Carnegie Hall deluxe reissue, which is exactly what I was reminded of when the other saxophonists on Joseph's album weigh in.)

The two Femenine recordings wound up with the same grade, but I think I slightly prefer the more ambient Sub Rosa version. I had them grouped together for a while, but alphabetical-by-artist order insisted. The Sub Rosa looks to be attributed directly to Eastman, but some time ago I decided to attribute classical music to the performer, not the (usually headline) composer (unless the composer is directly involved (as is often the case with recent works). I didn't manage to find Eastman's 1974 original, which would have been filed under his name.

The extra image at the bottom is a down payment on next week's haul, and presented as a puzzle/teaser. I often find an A- record between when I cut off the old week and manage to get a post up, and it's tempting to move them up rather than hold them back. Last week I could have done the same with this week's Arlo Parks record.

We finished streaming Line of Duty (Series 6) and Bosch (Season 7). I was a bit disappointed in the way both wrapped up, but they held our interest until then. Still have a fair number of Murdoch Mysteries and Midsomer Murders to go.

Only thing I've cooked in the last week was a shrimp improv, designed mostly to use up aging ingredients. Started with a shallot, garlic, red bell pepper, preserved lemon peel, shrimp, green olives, capers, parsley, and gluten-free rotini, with various spices (paprika, cumin, thyme, salt & pepper) and butter and lemon juice. I was thinking of Shrimp Bittman, but not actually looking at the recipe.

I need to go to the grocery store today or tomorrow, so I may get more ambitious. Hopes to entertain have been dashed the last several weeks, as various close friends have broken limbs, and we've had personal crises as well.

I have made some progress on making the house safer for cripples: a new bathtub rail (anchored on tile), two new front porch rails, carpet strips on the stairs to the second floor, more grab bars and handles. Should be getting one last railing unit this week. As always, Max Stewart's help was invaluable.

Locked out of the Wichita Eagle website today, and no way to get service on Sunday. It costs a fortune to read their crappy paper, and I'm about done with it.

I'm nearly done with Tom Segev's big biography A State at Any Cost: The Life of David Ben-Gurion. After 816 pages, on top of 608 for Jack E Davis' The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea, I'm hoping for something a bit easier next. Michael Lewis' The Premonition: A Pandemic Story seems likely to fit that bill. Lewis' previous The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy remains one of the best exposés of the Trump years (even if it was written relatively early in Trump's term, and makes little direct reference to him). Patiently waiting on the shelf are more obviously political books I probably understand well enough already, like Adam Serwer's The Cruelty Is the Point: The Past, Present, and Future of Trump's America, and Steve Benen's The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics -- and shook it to death, or maybe we should invoke the line about drowning it in the bathtub? Make no mistake: when Grover Norquist talked about government, he meant democracy.

Here's another link for the trailer to Mike Hull's documentary Betrayal at Attica, which will be streaming at HBO Max starting August 1.

Very disappointed in the near total lack of feedback or even interest shown in last week's Speaking of Which. Probably the last one, at least for a while. Did make a bit of progress writing on memoir this weekend.

Thanks to Joe Yanosik for sending me a copy of his book, A Consumer Guide to the Plastic People of the Universe. Thin but large format, lots of pictures, lots of records I had never heard of. Glad to see that Pulnoc's legendary Live at P.S. 122 is finally going to be available. I've long had a bootleg cassette of it, but without a cassette player I never got it into my database. (I also had a prejudice against bootlegs for not being genuine products, but the mixtape era messed that up.)

New records reviewed this week:

  • Snoh Aalegra: Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies (2021, ARTium/Roc Nation): [r]: B+(*)
  • Arooj Aftab: Vulture Prince (2021, New Amsterdam): [r]: B+(*)
  • Alder Ego: III (2021, We Jazz): [bc]: B+(**)
  • The Armed: Ultrapop (2021, Sargent House): [r]: B
  • Body Meπa: The Work Is Slow (2020 [2021], Hausu Mountain): [r]: A-
  • Cedric Burnside: I Be Trying (2021, Single Lock): [r]: B+(**)
  • Matt Caflisch: Runaway (2020, Fat Oak): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jonas Cambien Trio: Nature Hath Painted the Body (2021, Clean Feed): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Pedro Carneiro & Pedro Melo Alves: Bad Company (2021, Clean Feed): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Contour: Love Suite (2021, Good Question, EP): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Simão Costa: Beat With Out Byte (2021, Cipsela): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Desertion Trio: Numbers Maker (2019 [2021], Cuneiform): [dl]: B+(***)
  • Ensemble O/Aum Grand Ensemble: Julius Eastman: Femenine (2020 [2021], Sub Rosa): [r]: B+(***)
  • Danilo Gallo Dark Dry Tears: A View Through a Slot (2021, Clean Feed): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Garbage: No Gods No Masters (2021, Infectious Music): [r]: A-
  • Justin Gerstin: Music for the Exploration of Elusive Phenomena (2020 [2021], Zabap Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Rocio Giménez López/Luciana Bass/Fermin Suarez/Rosina Scampino: Reunion En La Granja (2019 [2021], Discos ICM): [bc]: B+(***)
  • The Goon Sax: Mirror II (2021, Matador): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tee Grizzley: Built for Whatever (2021, 300 Entertainment/Atlantic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Grofo: Grofo (2020 [2021], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rocco John Iacovone/Tom Cabrera: Out of the Maelstrom (2020 [2021], Woodshedd): [r]: B+(**)
  • Iceage: Seek Shelter (2021, Mexican Summer): [r]: B
  • Instant Composers Pool & Nieuw Amsterdams Peil: De Hondemepper (2018 [2020], ICP): [bc]: A-
  • John Kruth: Love Letters From the Lazaretto (2020 [2021], self-released): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Low Cut Connie: Tough Cookies: The Best of the Quarantine Broadcasts (2020 [2021], Contender): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lukah: When the Black Hand Touches You (2020 [2021], Raw Materials): [r]: B+(**)
  • Róisín Murphy: Crooked Machine (2021, Skint): [r]: B+(*)
  • Arlo Parks: Collapsed Into Sunbeams (2021, Transgressive): [r]: A-
  • Pom Pom Squad: Death of a Cheerleader (2021, City Slang): [r]: B+(**)
  • J. Peter Schwalm: Aufbruch (2021, RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(*)
  • Skee Mask: Pool (2021, Ilian Tape): [r]: A-
  • Luís Vicente Trio: Chanting in the Name Of (2021, Clean Feed): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Wau Wau Collectif: Yaral Sa Doom (2018 [2021], Sahel Sounds): [bc]: B
  • Wild Up: Julius Eastman Vol. 1: Femenine (2021, New Amsterdam): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sarah Wilson: Kaleidoscope (2012 [2021], Brass Tonic): [cd]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Hasaan Ibn Ali: Metaphysics: The Lost Atlantic Album (1965 [2021], Omnivore): [yt]: A-
  • Don Cherry: The Summer House Sessions (1968 [2021], Blank Forms Editions, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Don Cherry's New Researches: Organic Music Theatre: Festival De Jazz De Chateauvallon 1972 (1972 [2021], Blank Forms Editions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Alice Coltrane: Live at the Berkeley Community Theater 1972 (1972 [2019], BCT): [yt]: B+(**)
  • Alice Coltrane: Kirtan: Turiya Sings (1982 [2021], Impulse!): [r]: B+(***)
  • Eyedea: Thirty Nine Lines (2001 [2020], Crushkill): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Indaba Is ([2021], Brownswood): [r]: B+(*)
  • Alan Lomax's American Patchwork (1978-83 [2021], Mississippi): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Nermin Niazi and Feisal Mosleh: Disco Se Aagay (1984 [2021], Discostan): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Scott Reeves Quintet: The Alchemist (2005 [2021], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Screamers: Demo Hollywood 1977 (1977 [2021], Super Viaduct, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Wallahi Le Zein! ([2021], Mississippi): [bc]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Alice Coltrane: A Monastic Trio (1967-68 [1998], Impulse!): [r]: B+(**)
  • Alice Coltrane: Ptah the El Daoud (1970, Impulse!): [r]: B+(***)
  • Alice Coltrane: Journey in Satchidananda (1970 [1971], Impulse!): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nirvana: Sliver: The Best of the Box (1985-94 [2005], DGC): [r]: B+(*)

Grade (or other) changes:

  • Sa-Roc: The Sharecropper's Daughter (2020, Rhymesayers): [r]: [was: B+(**)] A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Simão Costa: Beat With Out Byte (Cipsela) [05-20]
  • Dr. Mike Bogle: Let There Be Light (MBP/Groove) [07-01]
  • East Axis [Matthew Shipp/Allen Lowe/Gerald Cleaver/Kevin Ray]: Cool With That (ESP-Disk)
  • Bob Gorry/Pete Brunelli/Peter Riccio: GoBruCcio (NHIC) [09-01]
  • Mushroom: Songs of Dissent: Live at the Make Out Room 8/9/19 (Alchemikal Artz) [09-10]
  • Mankwe Ndosi and Body MemOri: Felt/Not Said (ESP-Disk) [08-13]
  • Joe Yanosik: A Consumer Guide to the Plastic People of the Universe: book

Friday, July 16, 2021

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

Tweet: Speaking of Which: social breakdown, broken FDA, late-breaking Trump tales, vaccine hostility and the pandemic, Haiti killing, Tucker Carlson, Cuba protests, Death Valley and other climates, the space racket, left successes, other monopolies, nice racism.

Last week, I jotted down these tweets for possible use here:

Matthew Yglesias:

I completely believe that the rise in murders has something to do with Floyd and the Floyd aftermath, but the apparent surge in unruly passenger behavior suggests to me a broader kind of social breakdown of which the shootings are just one manifestation.

Steve M reply:

The message of Trumpism is that being an obnoxious asshole is not only fun but virtuous. It's also the message of the right-wing media and GOP shitposters like Ted Cruz and JD Vance.

One tends to automatically assume that something like the uptick in violent crime rates over the past year-plus has more to do with deeper socio-economic shifts, like the desperation many people felt as the pandemic struck and the economy collapsed. I'm not aware of any detailed factor analysis on the increase, so I don't have much to go on other than speculation (which, sure, tends to reinforce one's predilections). One obvious point is that the proliferation of guns, as Republicans sought to politicize them after Obama's win in 2008, and Trump took to even more extravagant levels, has only added to the problem. But I think Yglesias is right about "a broader kind of social breakdown," and also that SM is right that a major part of this breakdown has been the loss of trust and good will that has resulted from Trump's extremely divisive politicization of everything. How extreme Trump's effect on his own people has been was born out when his mob stormed the Capitol building: you couldn't ask for a clearer demonstration of how a sizable slice of the public has lost all respect for the principles and institutions of America and/or democracy. Yet this was just one of hundreds of examples of how Trump and the Republicans put their greed and their naked power interests above the law, and simple decency.

Moreover, the example they set not only encouraged lawlessness in their people, it also tarnished the institutions they legitimately exercised power over, and discredited their positions. I don't know of any incidence of politically motivated crime on the left, but there were isolated instances of looting and vandalism in cities the police had abused and in some cases abandoned -- something not likely to happen where police and courts are viewed as legitimate, fair, and protective.

Like most things, trust is easier broken than repaired. It is especially difficult to restore when the leadership of a major political party is still working hard to tear it down, something Republicans and their propagandists are still very frantically engaged in. One might pray for a convocation of people of good will, but as long as one party believes "being an obnoxious asshole is not only fun but virtuous," the only hope is to vote that party out of existence. Republicans are irredeemable.

Shannon Brownlee/Jeanne Lenzer: The FDA Is Broken: Case in point is the FDA approval of an insanely expensive drug to treat Alzheimers, where even the company's own test evidence shows its "failure to improve symptoms" and "also packs some nasty side effects" -- "three times as likely to suffer brain swelling and hemorrhages as patients given placebo." The approval was granted despite "ten of 11 members of the FDA's advisory committee of outside experts voted against approving the drug (the eleventh abstained)."

David Cohen: Trump on Jan. 6 insurrection: 'These were great people': "The former president described the participants as loving and patriotic, and said Democrats could be blamed for any violence." This is so perverse you have to wonder what the clinical term is for delusion where everything is its opposite. Note that one of those "loving and patriotic" people has since been elevated to coup martyr: See Josh Kovensky: The Deeply Racist Dimensions to Ashli Babbitt's Martyrdom.

Several books are coming out (if not already, then soon enough to leak to the news) on the last year of the Trump presidency, especially the election-to-inauguration period. The books:

  • Michael C Bender: "Frankly, We Did Win This Election": The Inside Story of How Trump Lost (July 13, Twelve).
  • Michael Wolff: Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency (July 13, Henry Holt).
  • Carol Leonnig/Philip Rucker: I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J Trump's Catastrophic Final Year (July 20, Penguin Press).

Some stories:

Dan Diamond/Hannah Knowles/Tyler Pager: Vaccine hesitancy morphs into hostility, as opposition to shots hardens. Also: Fenit Nirappil: The delta variant is ravaging this Missouri city. Many residents are still wary of vaccines. I don't blame people for being wary, but so-called "conservatives" need to suck it up and show some concern for their fellow Americans. The number of Covid-19 cases in the US declined as vaccines became readily available, but the numbers have started to rise again: cases are +121% over the last 14 days, hospitalized +26%, deaths +9%. Deaths are almost exclusively among the unvaccinated. And cases are way up worldwide, especially in countries which haven't had the first chance to get vaccines (as we have). Also:

By the way, I should also note the appearance of several books on the pandemic, especially on the Trump administration's botched handling of the crisis:

  • Michael Lewis: The Premonition: A Pandemic Story (May 4, WW Norton). Note quote from one of "my characters": "Trump was a comorbidity." Which is to say he was very much a part of the problem, but not its sole cause.
  • Lawrence Wright: The Plague Year: America in the Time of Covid (June 8, Knopf).
  • Andy Slavitt: Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the US Coronavirus Response (June 15, St Martin's Press).
  • Yasmeen Abutaleb/Damian Paletta: Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration's Response to the Pandemic That Changed History (June 29, Harper).

PS: Just after posting, saw this tweet from UAMS Health:

Tate Ezzi & his pregnant wife, both unvaccinated & hospitalized, got COVID-19 along w/ 4 of their kids. His wife - placed on a ventilator. "We lost the baby. I want other people to know my story so maybe they will think twice about not getting vaccinated." [link]

Amy Gardner: A Texas man was arrested on charges that he voted in the 2020 Democratic primary while on parole. He could face as much as 20 years in prison. This is a pretty grotesque story, starting with the fact that in 20 states this wouldn't even be a crime, much less one punishable with a draconian sentence (the "minimum prison term" of 2 years is almost as horrific as the maximum). Also that the publicity-seeking Texas AG filed the charges in a neighboring county to avoid getting a Houston jury. Not mentioned is the fact that Texas recently passed a law that allows felons to avoid checks when they purchase guns. I can see a case for not allowing people in jail to vote -- mostly having to do with residency, although no reason for that to preclude state and federal ballots -- but don't you actually want people on parole to do things ordinary citizens do? Most of the things parolees are restricted from are behaviors that risk further crime, such as drugs or guns. But what's the risk of recidivism in voting? This is pure discrimination. If anyone is culpable, it's the state and its AG.

Garphil Julien: Assassination of Haitian Leader Highlights Nation's Monopoly-Dominated Economy: It's been hard to get a handle on this event, implemented by Colombian mercenaries and two Haitian-Americans ("translators," they say). The island nation's history of poverty and political violence is generally known, but the staggering inequality gets less press:

In Haiti, the wealthiest one percent controls almost half of the country's wealth. Just over 600 families control 345 corporations. Groups of elite families have monopolistic control of broad swaths of industries through conglomerate structures. Three major banks -- Unibank, Sogebank, and BNC -- control 83 percent of Haiti's banking assets and 75 percent of its loan portfolio. An astounding 70 percent of the loans are in the hands of a mere 10 percent of borrowers. . . . The lack of competition in many industries means inputs in upstream and downstream markets for products are not priced competitively. It also hinders efficiency and productivity in the value chain. In Haiti, monopoly is a major deterrent to development because it creates barriers to entry and sustains anticompetitive practices. Many of these companies benefit from low import duties, import monopolies, tax write-offs, and the awarding of government contracts and state loans.

If inequality in Haiti seems more extreme than in the US, that is less due to the rarefied atmosphere at the top than the failure (so far) of the American right to destroy the safety net that limits poverty and protects most Americans from the most extreme forms of economic predation. Julien offers a telling example in Haiti's failure to build a robust electric grid -- a problem the rich work around by owning their own private diesel-fueled generators, and a problem that the private sector doesn't recognize because possible consumers don't have enough money to make investment in a grid profitable. Julien suggests that Biden's recent anti-monopoly moves could help here, but sounds to me like they need something more, like Green New Deal.

By the way, least surprising article of the week: Alex Horton: US military once trained Colombians implicated in Haiti assassination plot, Pentagon says. All right, maybe "Pentagon denies" would have been less surprising.

Michael Kranish: How Tucker Carlson became the voice of White grievance. I don't have much to add to this piece, other than to note that when I see Carlson (in clips, as I've never watched his show) I'm often struck by the dumbstruck absence of expression on his face, like a robot slowly searching memory banks for some politically right response. After some background, here's a sample:

But on many nights, it is Carlson's White grievance that dominates the show.

He has questioned whether Floyd's death was caused by a police officer and says Black Lives Matter is "poison" for the country. He has promoted a claim, embraced by white nationalists, that "the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate [with] more obedient voters from the Third World."

He has accused Boston University Professor Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist, of promoting racism. He called a top military leader a "pig" for saying he wanted to understand the role racism played in the Capitol attack. And he has said Black people and their White supporters are on a mission to spread "race hate," devoting many of his segments over the past year to bashing the ideas behind critical race theory.

Steve M comments on the article here, and followed that up with another piece, How Not to Profile Tucker Carlson. Another piece, starting with a photo that illustrates my point above: David Badash: Tucker Carlson: 'I've never met a white supremacist in my entire life.'

Eugene Robinson: It's time for progressives and conservatives to put the Cuba canards aside: No need for the "both sides do it" posturing. I've found it impossible to find anything credible on the demonstrations in Cuba or their "suppression," basically because the US media is totally in hock to the cold war propagandists, and they're not just hobbled with "canards" but have lost all credibility. And sure, some people on the left have long been reflexively defensive of Cuba, which doesn't help their credibility. While we might not be able to establish what is happening now, who is doing what, and what might ensue, there are a few basic things we should all be able to agree on: from "liberation" in 1898 to revolution in 1958, the US exploited Cuba as a colony through its corrupt and authoritarian political class, consigning most Cubans to deep poverty; that is what the Cuban people revolted against; US opposition to the revolution implicitly asserts American desire to return to colonial exploitation; the people who left Cuba to escape the revolution are not representative of the Cuban people, and have no stake in the future of Cuba (unless and until they return, a right that refugees generally have); as bad as economic exploitation was, the US-enforced blockade has done even more harm, and is arguably the source of continued impoverishment and repression in Cuba. We've seen, time and again, the folly of trying to topple unfriendly states by strangling the people. Robinson understands at least that much: "Trying to starve the Cuban regime into submission hasn't worked. Flooding it with freedom just might." Moreover, it would be good for Americans to give up on the conceit that we should dictate how other nations are governed, and acknowledge that (like us) people everywhere just want to be able to manage their own affairs, in whatever way they find works best. Also see:

Jason Samenow: Death Valley soars to 130 degrees, matching Earth's highest temperature in at least 90 years; also Death Valley had planet's hottest 24 hours on record amid punishing heat wave. There is debate whether this is the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth (an old reading of 134°F in 1913 is considered suspect), but it is awful hot, and not at all out of line with 120+ highs we've seen recently in cities like Baghdad and Phoenix. More heat:

Luke Savage: The Billionaire Space Race Is the Ultimate Symbol of Capitalist Decadence: That's one way of putting it. I was more interested in the curious phenomenon where insanely rich people get to pursue fanciful projects which no government or rational business would touch. The main examples in the past were big buildings. One wonders whether the human spirit is lifted by extravagances like Versailles, the Taj Mahal, Hearst Castle, or for that matter the Pyramids. It does appear that Bezos, Musk, and Branson are doing things that couldn't pass political or financial muster, things that they can only do because they are super-rich. Is this such a bad thing? I'm not sure, but there sure is a lot of hubris at stake. And it's more than a little troubling to watch them renting their toys with their fellows. Not that I have any desire to democratize their joy rides to the edge of space.

By the way, it should be noted that these ventures are structured as profit-seeking companies (even if much of their short-term value is to shelter profits made elsewhere). Given how thin the market is for $28 million thrills, it seems likely that their longer game is to promote and capture public spending on space, which has little to do with the glamour they seek, and (like "defense spending" ultimately depends on graft. PS: Also see this interview with Scott Galloway and Kara Swisher: Why Space Tourism Will Fall Flat.

Mark Schmitt: The American Left is a Historical Success Story: Only thing that surprises me here is that by focusing on the last 20 years -- part of that story is the growth of left/center think tanks has generated the ideas and personnel behind Biden's turn to the left -- this leaves out a lot of history. Indeed, it's hard to think of anything worth celebrating in American history that didn't start out with a small faction of the left. My own prime example is the New Left of 1965-75, which won popular support for the most important causes of the era: civil rights, peace, women, consumers, and the environment. One can fault the New Left on two major points: unions (considered Old Left, and divided on our issues), and electoral politics. The New Left started with an intrinsic distrust in political power (not least by the liberal elites of the Democratic Party), and never built up a political base able to consolidate, preserve, and build on the gains of that decade -- a weakness which allowed right-wing reaction to grab power, even if they were hard-pressed to reverse the winning principles of the New Left. (Not that they aren't still trying.)

Emily Stewart: America's monopoly problem stretches far beyond Big Tech. I always found it amusing when right-wing think tanks came up with schemes to employ the genius of the free market to solve all manner of problems -- "cap and trade" and "Obamacare" are two examples, famous as Democrats decided they could work with such market ideas, instantly abandoned by Republicans -- while their corporate and financial masters worked tirelessly to subvert the thing that makes markets work: competition. But monopolies and cartels are everywhere, so much so that it's virtually impossible for would-be entrepreneurs to raise money unless they can potentially corner the market. Competition has become something else the private sector is unable to do.

Tech companies get a lot of the antitrust notice these days because they're finding new and more ominous ways of exploiting monopoly power -- most often through network effects. Their high valuation signals that financiers think their potential monopoly profits are extremely high, and they can in turn use that to mop up potential competitors and niche products that could independently develop into threats. Another part of the attention is the worry that the old antitrust laws are not up to the task of protecting competitive markets.

Matt Taibbi: Our Endless Dinner With Robin DiAngelo: Scathing putdown of her new book, Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm, which he describes as self-plagiarism of her 2018 book White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (itself the target of a savage Taibbi takedown). Sample: "DiAngelo is monetizing white guilt on a grand scale, and there's an extraordinary irony in the fact that she's got a home-field advantage in this game over someone like, say, Ibram Kendi, because she's more accessible to people like herself, the same phenomenon she decries. Normally I'd salute the capitalist ingenuity. Unfortunately, like Donald Trump, DiAngelo is both too dim-witted and too terrific an entrepreneur to stop herself from upselling a truly psychotic movement into existence." I don't know whether this is a fair description, nor do I much care. We all know nice, well-meaning people with notions and instincts that are rooted in racism, but it rarely seems worth the effort to correct them -- it even seems a bit presumptuous and prejudicial. Isn't it better to build on those nice, well-meaning instincts? I don't wish to belittle the harm caused by racism throughout American history, nor to deny that the past persists into the present, but I also don't see it as the root of all evil. Racism was invented as a rationalization for one group of people to dominate another, but it's not the only one, especially as inequality has increased despite the 1965 passage of civil rights laws meant to end (or at least to reduce) it.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Music Week

Tweet: Music Week: 43 records, 6 A/A-, mostly new music including a lot of picks from friendly mid-year lists; plus trailer link for "Betrayal at Attica," with personal notes on Mike Hull, Elizabeth Fink, and Fred (and Lou Jean) Fleron.

Expanded blog post, July archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 35803 [35760] rated (+43), 212 [212] unrated (-0).

I listened to a lot of new non-jazz this past week. I checked off all the unheard records from last week's Dan Weiss list (12/24), and most of the unheard albums on Expert Witness lists by Christian Iszchak and Sidney Carpenter-Wilson. Also picked up a couple records from Phil Overeem's list, although I'm still about 30 down.

All but two records in my (jazz) demo queue are future releases (4 coming out on 7/16, 3 in August, 3 in September). The one I've been remiss on is a 2-LP by Liudas Mockunas and Arfvydad Kaziauskas -- the only vinyl in the queue. I play so little vinyl these days it just seems like too much bother (but I'll try to get to it this week). One of the demos I did play last week was Mario Pavone's last session. I thought I should also include his new Clean Feed album, recorded about a month before, and that got me into belatedly looking at their 2021 releases. Also took a look at my Downloads directory, which is where I found C81.

Quite a few B+(***) albums this week (14). There must be a couple in there that could rate higher, but most did get two plays. The ones I'm most tempted to revisit are by Erez Noga and Sylvie Courvoisier, although Rempis and Tyler are also possibles. (Marina and Navy Blue started out in that group, then got bumped with an extra play.) I wouldn't rule out the 10 B+(**) records either.

A few more mid-year lists:

I haven't looked very hard this week. The Quietus list is not only exceptionally long, but includes a lot of electronica, and even a bit of jazz (thanks to Peter Margasak).

One last music-crit note is that I set up a page for Joe Yanosik's book, A Consumer Guide to THE PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE. I'm not selling it, but the page has several links to get you there. I haven't seen the book yet, but understand they're on the way. I've had a guests section for some time, originally set up to host some of Michael Tatum's writings when he didn't have other outlets, so I was pleased to make space for Yanosik when he started writing his own deep-dive consumer guides. (Unfortunately, he didn't offer me any content this time.)

My nephew Mike Hull's documentary on the 1971 Attica Prison revolt, Nelson Rockefeller's murderous response, and the decades-long legal battles to expose what happened and why, will be released on HBO Max in August. Here's the trailer (scraped from Mike's Facebook post):

Expect more publicity in the coming weeks. Mike has been working on this film for eight years now, starting with his efforts to digitize Elizabeth Fink's archives on the various legal cases, a major part of her life for 30+ years. Mike has made the archive available here. (Much of this is also available in the Elizabeth Fink papers, 1971-2015 via Duke University.) An earlier film trailer is here.

For personal background, I wrote a bit about Liz Fink after she died in 2015.

I also want to link to the Buffalo News obituary on Frederic J. Fleron Jr., 83, UB professor emeritus, expert on Russia, especially the line "he took part in Vietnam War protests and the Attica Brothers legal defense." Our connection was not through the latter, but because he married my cousin, Lou Jean, who was every bit as involved -- and who is still active in political causes in Buffalo. Several of the pivotal decisions of my life turned on experiences with "Fritz" (and Lou Jean): I dropped out of high school right after they visited; they talked me into going to my draft physical, reassuring me that I could still refuse induction if I passed (I didn't); when I decided to try going to college, my reward was a trip to visit them in Buffalo -- my first college experience was sitting in on Fritz's poli-sci class, although my much deeper lesson from that week was greatly expanding my taste in food and music. Another line in the obit: "He enjoyed cooking, recipe planning and finding new restaurants." I don't recall him cooking, but he may well have taken it up (at least after divorcing Lou Jean, who was and is an outstanding cook, my greatest inspiration), but few people enjoyed fine food more than he did. Among my acquaintances Liz Fink was one of those few. And I might note that Mike Hull is pretty accomplished in that regard, as well.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Backxwash: I Lie Here Buried With My Rings and My Dress (2021, Ugly Hag): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Bfb Da Packman: Fat Niggas Need Love Too (2021, The Lunch Crew): [r]: B+(**)
  • Brockhampton: Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine (2021, Question Everything/RCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Burial: Chemz/Dolphin (2021, Hyperdub, EP): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Cloud Nothings: The Shadow I Remember (2021, Carpark): [r]: B+(**)
  • Alex Collins/Ryan Berg/Karl Latham: Together (2020-21 [2021], Dropzonejazz): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Sylvie Courvoisier/Ned Rothenberg/Julian Sartorius: Lockdown (2020 [2021], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • McKinley Dixon: For My Mama and Anyone Who Look Like Her (2021, Spacebomb): [r]: B+(***)
  • East Axis [Matthew Shipp/Allen Lowe/Gerald Cleaver/Kevin Ray]: Cool With That (2020 [2021], ESP-Disk): [r]: A-
  • Noga Erez: Kids (2021, City Slang): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Flatlanders: Treasure of Love (2021, Rack 'Em): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Front Bottoms: In Sickness & in Flames (2020, Fueled by Ramen): [r]: B+(**)
  • Danny L Harle: Harlecore (2021, Mad Decent): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hearth: Melt (2020 [2021], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Hiatus Kaiyote: Mood Valiant (2021, Brainfeeder): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mikko Innanen/Stefan Pasborg/Cedric Piromalli: This Is It (2020 [2021], Clean Feed): [bc]: A-
  • Anthony Joseph: The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives (2021, Heavenly Sweetness): [r]: A
  • Jupiter & Okwess: Na Kozonga (2020 [2021], Everloving): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kiwi Jr.: Cooler Returns (2021, Sub Pop): [r]: B+(***)
  • Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio: I Told You So (2021, Colemine): [r]: B+(*)
  • Luís Lopes/Lisbon Berlin Quartet: Sinister Hypnotization (2018 [2021], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Marina: Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land (2021, Atlantic): [r]: A-
  • MIKE: Disco! (2021, 10k): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Bob Mintzer & WDR Big Band Cologne: Soundscapes (2019 [2021], MCG Jazz): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Navy Blue: Song of Sage: Post Panic! (2020, Freedom Sounds): [r]: A-
  • Navy Blue: Ádà Irin (2020, Freedom Sounds): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nervous Dater: Call in the Mess (2021, Counter Intuitive): [r]: B+(**)
  • Billy Nomates: Emergency Telephone (2020, Invada, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mario Pavone: Blue Vertical (2021, Out of Your Head): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Mario Pavone: The Tampa Quartet: Isabella (2021, Clean Feed): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Liz Phair: Soberish (2021, Chrysalis): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Sud Des Alpes (2019 [2021], Aerophonic): [dl]: B+(***)
  • Dawn Richard: Second Line (2021, Merge): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sleater-Kinney: Path of Wellness (2021, Mom + Pop): [r]: B+(*)
  • Slide Attack: Road Trip (2020 [2021], SACD): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Space Quartet: Directions (2019 [2021], Clean Feed): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Tele Novella: Merlynn Belle (2021, Kill Rock Stars): [r]: B+(***)
  • TØRSÖ: Home Wrecked (2021, self-released, EP): [bc]: B
  • Tyler, the Creator: Call Me if You Get Lost (2021, Columbia): [r]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Diane Delin: Chicago Standard Time (1991 [2021], BluJazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Bill Evans: Behind the Dikes: The 1969 Netherands Recordings (1969 [2021], Elemental Music, 2CD): [cd]: A-
  • He's Bad! 11 Bands Decimate the Beats of Bo Diddley ([2021], Slovenly): [bc]: B
  • The Trojan Story (1961-71 [2021], Trojan, 3CD): [r]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • C81 (1981, NME/Rough Trade): [dl]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Diane Delin: Chicago Standard Time (BluJazz)
  • Justin Gerstin: Music for the Exploration of Elusive Phenomena (Zabap Music) [07-01]
  • Dave Miller Trio: The Mask-erade Is Over (Summit) [07-16]
  • Sarah Wilson: Kaleidoscope (Brass Tonic) [07-16]

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Daily Log

Mike Konczal on Twitter:

Big ideological evolution to talk about the era of the last 40 years as one of slow growth, excessive profits, massive concentration, weak investments and innovation.

Rather than just "wild and booming but sometimes unfair and unequal" -- the way Democrats used to normally do it.


Much of the inequality arguments are anchored in the 1980s-2000, when the big shift was within labor income (eg., CEOs vs bosses).

The shifts since 2000 however tell a different story, about capital income, concentration, profits and stagnation. The Democrats are updating to this.

Friday, July 09, 2021

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

Tweet: Speaking of Which: culture wars, bipartisan gestures, unvaccinated cowards, Floyd/Chauvin justice, ransomware, Republican ignorance and/or incompetence, real CRT, Covid-19 polarizedization, tax cheats, new deals, Syria.

No need for an introduction this week. The point here is not to try to cover anything. Just to note a few things, often as springboards for pet peeve rants (err, insightful comments).

David Atkins: Conservatives Have No Plan to Win the Culture War. They Intend to Rule Anyway. This spins off Tanner Greer's "excellent essay" ( Culture Wars Are Long Wars), admitting that serious writings from the right are few and far between, then punching enough holes in the thesis to make you wonder why he's worth the bother. The key line in Greer's essay is in bold: "Culture wars are fought for the hearts of the unborn." This reminds me of Paul Feyerabend's Against Method: scientific revolutions occur not when older scientists realize that there are better answers than the ones they had learned, but when they retire and die and younger scientists come along. Greer's complaint is that conservatives today have given up on forging ideas to appeal to future generations, and as such their current culture war salvos, leaning so heavily on authoritarian force, have lost appeal to younger generations. He contrasts this to Hayek, whose ideas written up in the 1940s finally became influential in the 1980s. It's not a very good example: Hayek (and his apostle Milton Friedman) never had any broad-based following beyond the ultra-rich libertarian right, which became politically powerful in the 1980s by camouflaging their agenda to exploit the backlash against the egalitarian and anti-war political movement of the 1960s (which really did pervade the culture of the period -- which is part of the reason those ideas persist despite the right's political efforts; the other part is that the right's agenda has repeatedly failed). Greer advises: "Values must be forged. Utopias must be imagined. Ideas must be tailored for mass intellectual appeal." But the right has given up appealing to the intellect. Their appeal is strictly emotional, requiring believers to ignore reality as well as reason. But if it weren't, it would be even less effective: the central idea of conservatism is that hierarchies are natural, normal, and necessary, which has always been a tough sell, especially as the people at the bottom feel the dead weight and desperation of those on top. Americans got rid of one oppressive hierarchy in 1776, another in 1865. The political movements of the 1930s and 1960s took aim at various hierarchies, which is why conservatives hate them so much. But they have nothing else to offer, so of course they've reduced themselves to pure hate.

By the way, Atkins has been writing a number of political essays that aren't exactly deep but try to look beyond the immediate fracas. See:

  • The Senate and Supreme Court Are Broken. Stop Trying to Save Them and Fix Them Instead. But can you fix them? Democrats need to win election by such large landslides the intrinsic anti-democratic inequities are overwhelmed.
  • If GOP Leaders Are Innocent, Why Sabotage the Insurrection Commission? Reasonable rhetorical question, but I suspect the answer is more prosaic: (a) the whole thing was embarrassing, but (b) the essence of Trumpism is to never apologize for anything you fucked up (which in Trump's case is just about everything).
  • Bipartisan Gestures on Infrastructure Won't Save Us from a Climate Apocalypse: Not least, because we're already there. Sure, there are still things that one can do to prevent even greater disasters, but disaster management is the more pressing need, and one that is proving inadequate pretty much everywhere. Bipartisan bills are supposed to be superior because everyone has a stake in making them work, but politicians like them because they spread the blame around. But since Gingrich took over in 1994, Republicans have only consented to bipartisan bills when (a) it would split the Democratic lawmakers from the party base (e.g., NAFTA), or (b) Republicans needed a bailout but couldn't pass one due to their own right-wing opposition (e.g., the bank bailout of 2008, and the first pandemic bailout of 2020). Bipartisanship is big right now because the balance of power margins are so narrow, but politically Democrats should pass what they can with whatever margins they can muster, or make Republican obstruction the campaign issue of 2022/2024. To make the latter point, it helps to give Republicans a chance to do the right thing, even if you expect them to fail. On climate, see: Chris Saltmarsh: Climate Change Disaster Isn't a Future Threat -- It's Already Here.

Will Bunch: Live free and die: Inside the bizarre political philosophy of America's unvaccinated. Last fall, when my doctor asked me whether I was going to get vaccinated when it became possible, I remembered an old quip: "always take drugs when they are new, while they still work." Implicit here is the fact that many drugs, even after they've been approved by the FDA, turned out to not work so well and/or have side-effects that ultimately caused them to be withdrawn (e.g., Vioxx). Some degree of wariness is reasonable, especially given that the pharmaceutical biz is one of the most rapaciously profit-driven in a nation full of greed and plunder. On the other hand, such stories about vaccines are far and few between. When I was growing up, the great fear was polio, and I remember getting both Sabine and Salk vaccines, as well as vaccine for the ancient (and now eradicated) scourge of smallpox. In recent years, I've gotten flu shots every years, and since they've become available, I've never had an adverse reaction, nor have I gotten flu. I didn't bother looking at technical details at the time, but it looks like the mRNA technology is intrinsically safer than many methods of vaccine design. And while the FDA didn't spend as much time as usual testing the vaccines, the real world application of them has been massive, and closely monitored, bearing out their advertisements for safety and efficacy. If the decision on whether to get vaccinated or now was strictly personal, I don't see any reasonable grounds for avoiding the shot. On the other hand, given the transmissibility and severity of the virus, the fact that most people around the world haven't had access to the vaccines, and the permeability of the world's borders, the decision really goes beyond deciding personal risks: your failure to get vaccinated increases the risks of other people becoming ill, of possibly dying, and of further spreading the virus, allowing it to further mutate. I'd argue that all this adds up to not just a personal but a social, indeed a national responsibility to get vaccinated. So it's fair to say that those who do refuse to do so are: (a) cowards, (b) hate Americans (if not necessarily such totems of Americanism as flags and guns), and (c) do not care whether the economy chokes on their toxic fear and ignorance. Of course, the article also suggests that they are (d) stupid and (e) have vile politics.

By the way, the odious Marc Thiessen has another op-ed arguing Give Trump credit for the vaccines, based on the dubious proposition that Trump's followers would rush to get vaccinated if it was seen as affirming rather than rejecting their hero. It's true that Trump was president while the vaccines were being developed, and that the federal government put a lot of money into vaccine development and committed a lot of money to buying those vaccines. There is no chance that any other president would have done less, but that wouldn't have stopped Trump from claiming credit -- if only he wanted it, something he has wavered on, especially after he recovered from his own bout with Covid-19, and significantly increased his denials of the danger of the illness (despite growing numbers, which peaked while he was preoccupied with plotting his insurrection). Even now, if Trump wants credit for the vaccines, he doesn't need Democrats (or Thiessen) to give it to him. He can claim it on his own. The simplest way would be to demand proof of vaccination to attend his rallies, with those lacking it being offered vaccination on the spot. He won't do that, because he's a coward, and they won't agree to it, because he's not their real leader: he's just a blowhard fool who makes them feel better about themselves, and superior to all the other Americans they so hate.

Jelani Cobb: Derek Chauvin's Trial and George Floyd's City. I don't have much to say about this, but this is a valuable piece of coverage. I'm not someone who thinks justice should be measured by the prison terms given to offenders. Indeed, I'd say that it's impossible to say now whether the 25 year sentence given to Chauvin is too much or too little, but that has more to do with our inability to foresee the future than any intrinsic notion of justice. What we can say is that Chauvin was convicted on overwhelming, incontrovertible evidence, and that his sentence isn't out of line with common practice. I'll also note that the article isn't just about Chauvin and Floyd, as they cannot be isolated from the larger political context. There is, for instance, a story about "a trumpeter named Keyon Harrold" -- not the way I would have phrased it, as he's well known to me as a brilliant musician -- which is both trivial and profound. I recall that after Obama was elected president, a lot of liberals thought the occasion was self-congratulatory proof that the American people had finally overcome their racist past. What happened next was that the racists doubled down, and Republican political opportunists took advantage of their energy. It may not be the case that more Americans are racist now than in 2008, but the political discourse is much more racially charged. Convicting Chauvin puts a little bit of a damper on that, but is also an outlier event that doesn't go far toward settling the much deeper problem of excessive police violence.

Jen Kirby: Can Biden do anything to stop ransomware attacks? With the Internet offering instant global communication, he'll need a lot of international cooperation, which means dialing back the tensions and animosities that undergird America's imperial belligerence. But we need a deeper moral shift: we need to make crime less attractive and less appealing, which will only happen if the "rules-based order" is viewed as fundamentally just and secure. It's easy to see why Russia is at the center of the ransomware crisis: when Communists converted to Capitalism, they kept their view of the latter as a criminal racket where greed trumps all other concerns. Russia today is often viewed as a mafia state, with Putin as a mob boss. On the other hand, it was not Putin but Yelstin (America's favorite) who turned Russia's resources over to crime bosses, and set up the environment Putin has struggled to manage, to sanitize, to legitimize. But America is also a criminal-minded oligarchy -- most blatantly under Trump, but his removal from the presidency has yet to change fundamental power relationships, especially in business and in the "security services." The US is at least as committed to cyberwarfare as Russia, China, or any other state you could mention (even Israel), and as such is a fertile source of cybercriminals. Americans culture has long embraced the pursuit of wealth and power, while blurring the lines between criminality and "legitimate" means, and that has only increased as the US right, with its faith in unregulated capitalism and its penchant to use force, both at home and abroad, to protect the privileges of the rich. I date the cultural shift to two Vietnam War artifacts: the TV series It Takes a Thief (1968-70), and more dramatically to the 1967 movie The Dirty Dozen. Both argued that criminals were better suited to government missions, most likely an admission that the government had itself crossed the line. By the time of The Sopranos (1999-2007), the mobsters justified their criminal acts as soldiers and/or businessmen. The show may have been meant to expose such conceits, but it perpetrated them nonetheless. Nowadays it's hard to find a police procedural that doesn't turn on quasi-legal hacking. Culture reflects and confirms broader, possibly less coherent social views. I don't blame these works for the sea change in public morality. I see deeper sources, especially in war -- which inevitably becomes more desperate and brutal the longer it lasts and the more fruitless it has obviously become -- and in the post-WWII embrace of capitalism as a crusade to be imposed on the post-colonial world. Also in the inequality and injustice that political support for oligarchy has fostered.

I recognize that changes in public morality occur slowly and fitfully, but the problem of ransomware illustrates the need, and possibly points the way. We live in an increasingly complex world, which more than ever depends on conscientious engineering and management of technology. It's hard to get that is a system that depends on profit-seeking businesses and self-serving bureaucracies hiding behind "national security" codes. We need to reduce the profit incentives behind crime, and we need to open up technology and insist on its public utility. There are ways to do this, but I can't go into all of that here. But I do want to mention the absurdity of America's conventional "anti-terrorism" mentality. For example, Tyler Cowen wrote:

What about military drone attacks on ransomware terrorists? It might be an option if they are in a relatively weak country, but that hardly is likely with Russia. . . Putin seems happy to see the U.S. squirm, and the government has not been able to rein in many of his other misdeeds. . . . Ultimately, the primary long-run solution is for businesses to pay for more secure systems. . . . Health care providers and insurers might have to become a bit more like the CIA. None of this will stop ransomware attacks. But it likely will cause them to decline.

Cowen's world-view is a dead end. Do we really want hospitals to be run as covertly and unaccountably as the CIA? Do we want hospitals to be as expensive to run as the CIA is? It's hard to tell what value (if any) the CIA produces, but the most likely net answer is: not much. (Tim Weiner's big history of the CIA is called Legacy of Ashes.) The essential key to a functioning economy is trust, an insight as old as the Golden Rule. Without it, we reasonably become paranoid, and the quest for security overwhelms every other aspect of our lives. Cowen's argument is that as individuals we have to protect ourselves against attacks on trust, because he cannot conceive of doing so as a society. Isn't that carrying individualism a bit too far? Won't doing so end with Hobbes' "war of all against all"?

Paul Krugman: What Underlies the G.O.P. Commitment to Ignorance?, and Only the Incompetent Need Apply: The former was occasioned by Tucker Carson's attack on Gen. Mark Milley ("He's not just a pig, he's stupid") for saying that it's important "for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and widely read." As Krugman points out, "Closed-mindedness and ignorance have become core conservative values." He could have added that's because it's the only way to protect the rotten heart of conservatism. The latter piece came from reading Nightmare Scenario, by Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta, on Trump's mishandling of the pandemic, but he couldn't help working Stephen Moore into the narrative. Krugman has long recognized that Moore is among the stupidest people to ever claim to be an economist, but he claims to have been unaware of "the special destructive role played by Moore."

By the way, Krugman also wrote an interesting piece on Trump's tariffs and their lingering effects on supply chains: The Trumpian Roots of the Chip Crisis. Back when this was happening, I tried to argue that tariffs only make sense when combined with some kind of central planning -- you protect the industries you want to develop -- but America is allergic to state direction, and open to all sorts of corrupt lobbying, so all Trump wound up doing was shoring up failing industries that were no longer competitive. Krugman's take is the mirror image: that tariffs introduced uncertainty that made the private sector less likely to invest in new capacity, leading to our current "booming with bottlenecks" economy.

German Lopez: How political polarization broke America's vaccine campaign: This is something that's going to have to be researched much more systematically, but my impression is that Republican denialism has gone through several stages. The first was built around the belief that nothing (certainly not a microscopic virus) should get in the way of businesses making money. But that's not how the pro-business faction lines up popular support in the GOP. They line it up by scaring and taunting the base, by denying the existence of real threats and by playing up the spectre of phony ones. Denialism at that point took the form of denying that young, healthy people would get seriously ill, so why force them to take precautions. By any objective measure, that's turned out to be bullshit, which would have been easy enough to admit once vaccines became available. From that point, the pro-business crowd should have lined up behind everybody getting vaccinated so business could return to normal. But by then, they had already ceded so much ground to the crazies that they had lost control. And, of course, it didn't help that the Democrats all lined up dutifully behind the vaccination regime, because that just confirms their paranoia to the right-wing base. And at this point it's hopeless to think that Republican "leaders" could turn their "followers" around. Republican politicians have learned to fear their base, so they can't be seen as attacking them. Same for Trump. He can't stand up because he's never led anything. He's never been anything but a reflection of the Fox-deranged base, which makes him their stooge, nothing more.

It's probably true that there will always be stupid people, but the genius of the Republican Party is that they've convinced so many stupid people that they deserve to rule the world. Trump's uniqueness is that he actually got the audition. Needless to say, it didn't go well.

Gary Peller: I've Been a Critical Race Theorist for 30 Years.Our Opponents Are Just Proving Our Point for Us. "It makes sense that the depictions of CRT by its opponents bear so little resemblance to our actual work and ideas. Like the invocation of Willie Horton in the 1980s and affirmative action after that, the point of those who seek to ban what they call 'CRT' is not to contest our vision of racial justice, or to debate our social critique. It is instead to tap into a dependable reservoir of racial anxiety among whites." Many more issues appeared on the efforts of the right to ban CRT (e.g., Kimberlé Crenshaw: The panic over critical race theory is an attempt to whitewash U.S. history), but it's refreshing to read one that actually explains the theory itself.

Mandy Smithberger/William Hartung: What Price "Defense"? There's another exception to what I said above about bipartisanship: defense spending, currently approaching $1.3 trillion per year, even with operations in Afghanistan and Iraq winding down. Also at TomDispatch: Andrew Bacevich: So It Goes, from his book After the Apocalypse: America's Role in a World Transformed. Daniel Larison summed up the book: Bacevich: Get out of NATO, shut down combatant commands. (While looking for this, I also saw this 2013 op-ed by Bacevich: Time for the United States to Leave NATO.)

Jennifer Taub: How to Understand the Trump Tax Indictment. This is a pretty good explanation of what's happened so far, with a side glance to the broader world of tax evasion. Conclusion: "For Trump, the worst is yet to come." Gossip for junkies: Alex Henderson: A former federal prosecutor thinks Ivanka may be the next person who gets indicted in Trump Org case.

Rebecca Traister: Biden's Big Left Gamble: They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Biden certainly qualifies as old, and his 50+ year career in politics offers nothing to suggest that he's likely to break with the dominant neoliberal model that made Obama and the Clintons so much a part of the Reagan-Trump era yet, well, times have changed, illusions that Democrats have doggedly held have disappeared, and people have started to realize that time is running out. I've argued that anyone who takes current problems seriously must look to the left for answers, and we're seeing some of that. But it also seems to be true that he's looking back to the New Deal. He's not that old, but the America he grew up in was radically transformed by Franklin Roosevelt, and much was lost (for all but the rich) as parts of the New Deal were ripped apart (sometimes with Biden's help). "Biden's team insists that he alone is the engine behind his administration's progressivism, that he has not changed, that he has always been this person." That will eventually prove to be a limit, but to start out it's his strength. Latest update: Joan McCarter: Biden signs sweeping anti-trust executive order to make life fairer for American workers, consumers.

John Washington: The Human Cost of 10 Years of Conflict in Syria: When the "Arab Spring" swept into Syria the government of Bashar Al-Assad was broadly unpopular, but each faction had their own mutually exclusive reasons, and many had more to fear from the others than from Assad. A sensible solution would have been to hold elections and let parliamentary factions trade off with one another. But Syria had been subject to a series of coups and dictatorships, which finally stablilized under the Assad family, and they built a political and military machine that didn't trust their people -- in part because the leadership drew heavily from the minority Alawite population, and in part due to hostile neighbors (especially Israel, but also Turkey and Iraq, plus complications from their long-standing intervention in Lebanon). So Assad did what Syrian governments had done in the past: attacked dissenters militarily. And adjacent nations did what they had often wanted to do: pick factions and subsidize war. The conflict has long reminded me of the Spanish Civil War, where a local struggle was exacerbated by some foreign interests and hampered by others (often through indifference). The last decade hasn't made Assad seem any more legitimate, but it's hard to see any scenario that could dislodge him, so the quickest path to peace would be to accept his continued rule, and try to negotiate non-vindictive and non-discriminatory terms in exchange for aid in rebuilding. But we should be clear that as bad as Assad has behaved during the war, the far greater offense was the (sometimes clandestine) intervention of other countries in the war. Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah (in Lebanon) supported Assad, so presumably continue to have some influence. (Russia, in particular, was able to get Syria to decommission its chemical weapons, not that the US gave them much credit.) Iraq had split interests, with Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis (primarily through ISIS, which straddled the border) had their own interventions. The Saudis, UAE, and possibly other Persian Gulf states backed Islamist factions separate from ISIS. Israel and Turkey used the war as cover for their own perverse interventions (Israel against Iran/Hezbollah, Turkey against the Kurds). And the US, well, mostly fought against everyone, including itself, marking itself as schizophrenic and nihilist, even while spouting the usual liberal democracy propaganda.

Monday, July 05, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, July archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 35760 [35715] rated (+45), 212 [205] unrated (+7).

Back in my software engineering days, someone came up with the notion of "train-leaves-the-station" release scheduling, where you pick a date (as opposed to a set of needed functionality) and release whatever you have done by the date. That way you get regular releases, even if you rarely get done what needs to be done. On the other hand, content-driven releases invariably took too long.

Releasing Music Week every Monday is a "train-leaves-the station" affair. Whatever's in by a cutoff date goes out, regardless of whether it fits together, or is obviously incomplete. Moreover, if I don't feel like writing an introduction, I don't have to. The fact is, I have nothing much to say this week. But I do have 45 records below, so that will have to do.

I should note that the Helen Merrill dive was the result of a question about Clifford Brown, the Grace Jones another question, and the Rolling Stones revisit followed a Robert Christgau Big Lookback. I'm also a bit worried that I haven't listened to the Mingus enough for the whole thing to merit that A grade, but the the second set sure does, and the Don Pullen piece added to the second disc sets the jams up perfectly.

By all means, please ask more questions.

I did collect a few more links to mid-year lists:

As I've noted, the only thing I'm doing with these lists is a quick scan and check to make sure the albums are in the Music Tracking file.

Let me also jot down the list Dan Weiss posted in Facebook, with my grades (where I have them) in brackets. His list wasn't numbered, but isn't in any typical unranked order):

  1. Jeff Rosenstock, Ska Dream [*]
  2. Olivia Rodrigo, Sour [A-]
  3. Kiwi Jr., Cooler Returns []
  4. Mach-Hommy, Pray for Haiti [***]
  5. Jazmine Sullivan, Heaux Tales [*]
  6. Palberta, Palberta5000 [*]
  7. Navy Blue, Songs of Sage: Post Panic! []
  8. Danny L Harle, Harlecore []
  9. Bfb da Packman, Fat N*ggas Need Love Too []
  10. Cloud Nothings, The Shadow I Remember []
  11. Ashnikko, Demidevil [**]
  12. Billy Nomates, Emergency Telephone [EP] []
  13. Dry Cleaning, New Long Leg [A-]
  14. Girl in Red, If I Could Make It Go Quiet [***]
  15. Sleaford Mods, Spare Ribs [***]
  16. No-No Boy, 1975 [A-]
  17. Armand Hammer & The Alchemist, Haram [**]
  18. Liz Phair, Soberish []
  19. Madlib and Four Tet, Sound Ancestors [*]
  20. MARINA, Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land []
  21. Tyler, The Creator, CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST []
  22. Nervous Dater, Call in the Mess []
  23. TØRSÖ, Home Wrecked [EP] []
  24. Burial, Chemz/Dolphin [EP] []

He also has a much longer singles list, which I won't bother with. The only one I recognize there is Olivia Rodrigo's "Brutal," although I'm sure I've heard more. Singles don't stick to my brain like they used to.

By the way, here's the best meme I've seen on Facebook in a fair while: Climate Change: A Timeline. Even better than the Crowson cartoon I posted on July 4. Had to fish the latter out of my Facebook photo file as it's no longer in my feed. Mostly food pics there, some pretty memorable. But the jambalaya I made last week was pretty awful.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Gary Allan: Ruthless (2021, EMI Nashville): [r]: B+(*)
  • Keshav Batish: Binaries in Cycle (2021, Woven Strands): [cd]: B+(**) [07-10]
  • Lucy Dacus: Home Video (2021, Matador): [r]: B+(**)
  • Doja Cat: Planet Her (2021, Kemosabe/RCA): [r]: B+(*)
  • Elkka: Euphoric Melodies (2021, Technicolour, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chrissie Hynde: Standing in the Doorway: Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan (2021, BMG): [r]: B+(**)
  • Loraine James: Reflection (2021, Hyperdub): [r]: B+(*)
  • Amythyst Kiah: Wary + Strange (2021, Rounder): [r]: B+(*)
  • LSDXOXO: Dedicated 2 Disrespect (2021, XL, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Mark Masters Ensemble: Masters & Baron Meet Blanton & Webster (2019 [2021], Capri): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Bob Mintzer & WDR Big Band Cologne: Soundscapes (2019 [2021], MCG Jazz): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Modest Mouse: The Golden Casket (2021, Epic): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Mountain Goats: Dark in Here (2021, Merge): [r]: A-
  • Laura Mvula: Pink Noise (2021, Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Marius Neset: A New Dawn (2021, ACT Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog: Hope (2020 [2021], Northern Spy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sault: Nine (2021, Forever Living Legends): [r]: B+(***)
  • Slayyyter: Troubled Paradise (2021, Fader Label): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tune-Yards: Sketchy (2021, 4AD): [r]: B
  • Faye Webster: I Know I'm Funny Haha (2021, Secretly Canadian): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Can: Live in Stuttgart 1975 (1975 [2021], Mute, 2CD): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Miles Davis: Merci, Miles! Live at Vienne (1991 [2021], Rhino, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Arne Domnérus Quartet: Dompan at the Savoy (1990 [2021], Phontastic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Charles Mingus: Mingus at Carnegie Hall [Deluxe Edition] (1974 [2021], Atlantic, 2CD): [r]: A

Old music:

  • Can: Landed (1975, Virgin): [r]: B+(**)
  • Grace Jones: Private Life: The Compass Point Sessions (1980-85 [1998], Island, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Grace Jones: Slave to the Rhythm (1975, ZTT/Island): [r]: B-
  • Helen Merrill: Helen Merrill (1954 [1955], Emarcy): [r]: A-
  • Helen Merrill: Helen Merrill With Strings (1955 [1956], Emarcy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Helen Merrill: Dream of You (1956 [1958], Emarcy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Helen Merrill: Helen Merrill With Clifford Brown and Gil Evans (1954-56 [1990], Emarcy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Helen Merrill: Merrill at Midnight (1957, Emarcy): [r]: B
  • Helen Merrill: You've Got a Date With the Blues (1959 [1989], Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Helen Merrill: American Country Songs (1959, Atco): [r]: B
  • Helen Merrill/Dick Katz: The Feeling Is Mutual (1965 [1987], Emarcy): [yt]: B+(***)
  • Helen Merrill/Teddy Wilson: Helen Sings, Teddy Swings! (1970, Catalyst): [yt]: B+(**)
  • The Rolling Stones: Rewind (1971-1984) (1971-84 [1984], Rolling Stones): [r]: A-
  • The Rolling Stones: Sucking in the Seventies (1973-79 [1981], Rolling Stones/Virgin): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Rolling Stones: Some Girls [Deluxe Edition] (1978 [2011], Universal Republic, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • The Roots: Organix (1993, Remedy): [yt]: B+(***)
  • The Roots: From the Ground Up (1994, Geffen, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Roots: Do You Want More?!!!??! (1995, DGC): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Roots: Dilla Joints (2010, self-released): [yt]: B
  • Charlie Shavers: Charlie Shavers and the Blues Singers 1938-1939 (1938-39 [1995], Timeless): [r]: B+(***)
  • Charlie Shavers: The Last Sessions [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1970 [1999], Black & Blue): [r]: B+(*)

Grade (or other) changes:

  • The Rolling Stones: Dirty Work (1986, Virgin): [r]: [was: B+]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Marc Cary: Life Lessons (Sessionheads United) [09-17]
  • Tom Cohen: My Take (Versa Music) [08-20]
  • Bill Evans: Behind the Dikes: The 1969 Netherands Recordings (Resonance, 2CD) [06-18]
  • Falkner Evans: Invisible Words (CAP) [08-13]
  • Jeff Lederer: Sunwatcher (Little(i)Music) [09-03]
  • Aakash Mittal: Nocturne (self-released) [09-10]
  • Mario Pavone: Blue Vertical (Out of Your Head) [06-18]
  • Scott Reeves Quintet: The Alchemist (Origin) [07-16]
  • J. Peter Schwalm: Aufbruch (RareNoise): [cdr] [07-16]

Daily Log

Friday, July 02, 2021

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

Belatedly looked around, and found a few pieces. No doubt there are many more of interest. One thing I didn't get around to is Steve M.'s piece on election strategy: Rachel Bitecofer's approach might not be good for winning elections, but it would be good for America. This references a Salon interview with Bitecofer, who wants to move from forecasting elections to influencing them. To that end, she's launched Strike PAC, which is creating advertisements that go after the whole Republican Party (not just the Trump crazies). As M puts it, "Democrats need to do more messaging that says simply: We're good. The other party is bad -- and, in this moment especially, One reason to vote for us is that out opponents are crazy and dangerous. (They are, and yet for years they've gotten away with saying that Democrats are crazy and dangerous.)"

I think it's fair to say that I've been pushing this line for a long time -- well before Trump jumped to the head of the line. I don't wish to understate how awful conservatives like Bush/Cheney, Gingrich, Reagan, and for that matter Nixon and Goldwater have been, but something fundamental changed in 2009. Bush/Rove at least had enough self-consciousness to know that they'd have to sugar-coat the right-wing agenda they were implementing to make it more palatable. However, the Bush years were a total disaster, leading to a complete repudiation in the 2006-2008 elections.

Sensible Republican politicians might have learned something from the debacle, but they lost control of the party to, for lack of a better term, the mob (or Tea Party, as they billed themselves, and were soon promoted by donors like the Kochs). The mob was defined and driven by right-wing celebrity media, especially on Fox. They had been cynically manipulated, their fears stoked, for years, and Obama -- who anyone with the slightest grasp on reality could see was a fairly toothless reformer -- was all it took to trigger them into full-blown paranoia. Donald Trump was every bit as credulous, giving him an unshakable (if incomprehensible) bond with his base. As he won, the Party fell into line. After all, he stood for everything they claimed to believe, and won despite doing nothing to sanitize his views or his persona. He never backed down in public, never apologized, never pretended to go along with the hated "elites."

But what did he do with all his power, his charisma, his strength and stamina? Only what mainstream Republican operatives wanted him to do. He cut taxes on the rich, he slashed regulations on business, he appointed judges from the approved list, he weakened workers, he made government more corrupt, he made the world a more cruel and distressing place. And he totally wasted four years that could have been used to address numerous pressing problems. Any other Republican would have done the same, because the same greed, short-sightedness, bigotry, and viciousness have been baked into the GOP agenda for decades -- as was the same careless incompetence at running government and making it and the economy work for all Americans. They even saw that as a feature, not a bug. In their view, there is no public interest, only private ones, so they see government as useful only inasmuch as they can sell the spoils. And they reject equality, even as an unattainable ideal. The core principle of conservatism is support for hierarchy that privileges some people over others.

Take Trump out of that equation, and nothing changes. Indeed, they would happily dispense with him if they could find someone else they can win with. Winning is what really matters to them, and they'll win any way they can. They don't necessarily prefer that people be stupid, but if it helps them win -- and let's face it, so few people benefit from their program that their biggest political obstacle is getting large numbers to vote against their own interest -- they'll push it for all they can.

Fact is, Republicans have done a pretty amazing job at getting people to fear Democrats for purely imaginary reasons, while Democrats have struggled with making people see that it's the Republicans who are set on stealing away what's left of their way of life. Democrats need to do better, especially as the Republicans are working so diligently to rig elections against them. In this context, it is essential that people see the Republicans for what they are.

I will say, though, that in contrast to what these articles suggest, there is at least one positive argument Democrats can run on: ask voters to "give Joe a chance," which given Republican obstructionism can only happen if we elect more Democrats to Congress and in the States.

Gillian Brockell: Historians just ranked the presidents. Trump wasn't last. Well, not by much, and probably because his legacy will take some time to settle out, especially among those accustomed to peering deep into the past. This poll has been run a number of times, and the one thing that the historians are most clear about is that they view the end of slavery as the most important achievement in US history, and the Civil War as its greatest tragedy. The worst presidents in the poll are Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Andrew Johnson: the first two supported slavery against rising opposition, setting the table for secession and Civil War, while the third was a vile racist who did much to cripple Reconstruction, allowing the Slave Power to rise again and trample on the new rights of the formerly enslaved. On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln, the president between Buchanan and Johnson who reunited the nation and ended slavery, is ranked first (ahead of George Washington and the Roosevelts). Trump's legacy has yet to turn into a bloodbath and 100 years of further oppression, but that's not for want of trying. I'm tempted to argue that Trump, within the context of his times, is more racist than the trio that trailed him. Some support for that comes from a factor analysis of the rating system. Historians are asked to evaluate presidents on 10 criteria, and Trump did come out dead last in two: moral authority and administrative skills. That's certainly right, even with Richard Nixon and G.W. Bush in the mix.

Peter S Canelos: Why the 'Trump Court' Won't Be Like Trump: Author wrote a book about the Supreme Court justice esteemed by both Neil Gorsuch and Ruth Bader Ginsberg: The Great Dissenter: The Story of John Marshall Harlan, America's Judicial Hero. Reminds one that despite the political expediency Antonin Scalia often evinced, the judges approved by the Federalist Society and rubber-stamped by Trump and Bush prefer to find their roots in legal texts, whereas Trump never looked beyond Fox for his kneejerk jingoism.

Zak Cheney-Rice: The Right's New Reason to Panic About 'Critical Race Theory' Is Centuries Old: Psychologists call this "projection": the belief that other people, if given the chance, would behave as badly as one's own people have done in the past. Or perhaps it signifies tacit guilt, the understanding that past crimes have gone unpunished, that some reckoning is due. You might recall the panic exhibited in the late 1960s by the White Power Structure (which probably doesn't include you but certainly did J Edgar Hoover) when Stokely Carmichael started talking about "Black Power" and the Black Panthers started carrying guns in public -- neither illegal, nor unprecedented if you substituted "White" for "Black." Right-wing panic over "Critical Race Theory" draws on such old fears: that Blacks (and "woke" Whites who were easily suckered by their complaints) will rise up and do unto innocent Whites what their ancestors had done to Blacks for hundreds of years. The picture here shows a couple children holding signs which read "I Am Not an Oppressor." That's clearly true, but what about the white men standing behind them, including the cop? Probably not them either, but in this picture at least, it isn't "CRT" that's "Creating Race Tension": it's those who are still trying to deny that systematic racism has hurt many people not just in the past but still today.

Matt Ford: The Empire State Strikes Back: Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. has been investigating the Trump Organization for some time now, and came out with the first indictment, not of Trump or his family but of CFO Allan Weisselberg, who is charged with grand larceny for a tax fraud scheme. This strikes me as small potatoes, but much will depend on whether there will be further charges. Trump has been plagued by underlings who think they should be able to live large like the boss, but never come close to having the means. (At least three Cabinet Secretaries had to resign due to expenses scandals.) All this is traceable to the culture of corruption around Trump, but he's somehow been immune to the criminal behavior of his little helpers (and not just those he was able to pardon). Also see Andrew Prokop: The indictment of the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg, explained. Meanwhile: Trump seeks to use indictments as a political rallying cry as he tries to survive latest legal threat.

Constance Grady: It's incredibly hard to get a rape conviction. Bill Cosby's release makes it feel pointless. I wasn't planning on even mentioning the Cosby case this week, but this title caught my eye. I don't know the specifics, and don't know the applicable law. (If you care for that level of detail, see Ian Millhiser: The court decision freeing Bill Cosby, explained as best we can.) Just personally, I don't believe that the failure to punish bad people for their actions is a social and political disaster, even though it doesn't help with the important perception that we need a fundamental sense of justice. Take, for instance, two other names also prominent in this post: Donald Rumsfeld and Donald Trump. By the way, note that the Pennsylvania District Attorney who poisoned the well in the Cosby case later was a defense attorney for Trump in his second impeachment trial.

Benjamin Hart: It Is Mind-Bogglingly Hot in the Pacific Northwest Right Now. Last week I reported record high temperatures in and around Russia. This week it's Washington and Oregon, extending well into British Columbia, all of which set all-time heat records this week (Portland hit 116, with at least 63 deaths; Lytton, BC, set an all-time high for Canada when it hit 121, then burned to the ground). For a bigger picture, see David Wallace-Wells: How to Live in a Climate 'Permanent Emergency'.

Daniel Hill: Inside Gun-Surrendering Criminal Mark McCloskey's Very Sad St. Louis Rally: Rebecca Solnit suggested this deserves a Pulitzer Prize for best lead-line in an article: "Noted local criminal Mark McCloskey played host to a barbecue/political rally on Sunday afternoon, drawing tens of admirers to the sweltering parking lot of a closed outlet mall in St. Louis County to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the time he pulled a gun on a crowd of people who otherwise would never have noticed or cared he existed." Hill hardly misses a beat for the rest of the article. E.g.: "Initially, fellow criminal and proponent of armed coups Michael Flynn was scheduled to speak, but he was subbed out for North Carolina Congressman and notably dumb guy Madison Cawthorn, who also did not show up. But the show must go on, as they say, and so we were instead primarily treated to the emcee abilities of former radio host Jamie Allman, who lost his longtime job back in 2018 after taking to Twitter to pontificate about ramming a hot poker up a teenager's ass." I generally think it's unwise to treat your enemies as blithering idiots, but sometimes they are.

Carla K Johnson/Mike Strobbe: Nearly all COVID deaths in US are now among unvaccinated. Just saying. Numbers cited are 150 of 18,000 deaths in May, or 0.8%; 1,200 of 107,000 hospitalizations, or 1.1%. New cases are still declining nationally, but are rising in Nevada, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Utah, Arizona, and Wyoming.

Sarah Jones: The Hell Donald Rumsfeld Built: "Iraq will be Rumsfeld's legacy, with all the lies, all of the torture, all of the killing. While many hands bear responsibility for such loss, two belonged to Rumsfeld, who had Saddam Hussein in his sights for years before 9/11 gave him the excuse he wanted to attack Iraq. Rumsfeld lived out the rest of his days with impunity. His victims weren't so lucky." One can't deny that Rumsfeld was lucky: he stumbled from one disaster to the next, always falling upward. Iraq was so bad you forget how his deliberate incompetence helped wreck the "war on poverty" under Nixon (as Nixon himself was losing his own war in Southeast Asia). Rumsfeld managed to keep enough distance from Nixon to stay out of jail, which led to a key job in Ford's White House (as Dick Cheney's man-servant) and his first stint as Secretary of Defense, and his longer term in the Defense Department's shadow cabinet. Before he was called back to mis-manage his own wars, his main project was the so-called Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), which had something to do with hardware but was mostly a cult belief system: the one that led security mandarins like himself to think they could win wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The only things they ever "won" were budget battles. Without the think tank hubris of the "vulcans" (see James Mann's The Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet, and Fred Kaplan's Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power), the Global War on Terror and the ambition to obliterate the "Axis of Evil" wouldn't have been thought, much less acted on. The only saving grace for Rumsfeld is that he seems to have wanted to leave Iraq as soon as it was "liberated," leaving the Iraqis to sort out the disaster, under the threat that the US could resume bombing any time they did anything that offended us. But with all that oil, Bush couldn't resist the temptation to occupy Iraq and rebuild it in the familiar image of Texas. Still, Rumsfeld hardly protested. He starred in daily press conferences, peppering us with pseudo-profundities like "known unknowns" and "bodyguard of lies," and how "stuff happens" when you "go with the army you got," while admirers like Midge Dichter swooned. His starmaking turn soon faded in the shadows of the ruins, but he blundered on, until Bush finally fired him, picking a replacement who was better at containing disasters than creating them. Also see Phyllis Bennis: War Criminal Found Dead at 88; also Ben Burgis: Donald Rumsfeld, Rot in Hell; also Charles P Pierce: You Go to Hell With the Alibis You Have.

Ed Kilgore: Bipartisan Voting-Rights Legislation May Simply Be Impossible: Sen. Joe Manchin clings to the hope, but no Republican supports him, and every voting rule change at the state level has been strictly partisan. If you want proof of the Republican shift on voting, look at the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was extended unanimously in 2006, but gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013. A fix would be simple -- extend federal review of state voting law changes to all states, not just those named in 1965 -- but only one Senate Republican (Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, who was last elected as a write-in candidate after losing the Republican primary) is interested in doing so. What's made voting rules such a partisan matter is the growing realization that the Republican Party benefits from the undemocratic skew built into the Constitution (e.g., the Senate and the Electoral College -- the latter has voted 4 times for presidents who failed to get a plurality of the vote, and all 4 were Republicans), gerrymandering, and voter suppression laws. Since the 2020 election, most Republican-controlled states have passed laws to further restrict the vote, and every one of those laws have been passed on party-line votes. (There are no Republican versions of Joe Manchin, who think the rules should be agreed to by both sides.) By the way, the Trump-packed Supreme Court just reminded us it's solidly on the Republican team. See: Matt Ford: The Supreme Court Gives a Green Light to Voter Suppression.

Mike Konczal/JW Mason: How to Have a Roaring 2020s (Without Wild Inflation): Reminds us of the sustained economic boom during and after WWII, when massive public spending (initially on the war, then on the GI Act, then on more war) pumped up an economy that worked for everyone. Infrastructure overhaul, improved social services, and rising wages could do the same thing in the coming decade, provided we can shake the malaise of bankers and their economists, like Arthur Burns in the 1970s threatening to "take the punch bowl away when the party gets going," and the even harsher scolds that followed. Of course, by the time Alan Greenspan came around, he had to keep spiking drinks to keep the rich going, but that's just evidence of how successful the attack on wages and equality had become. Related here: Daniel Alpert: Americans Don't Want to Return to Low Wage Jobs. But Republicans are willing to starve them into submission.

Mark Mazzetti/Adam Goldman: They Seemed Like Democratic Activists. They Were Secretly Conservative Spies. The FBI has a lot of experience with infiltrating agents into political groups it deemed subversive. That might not have been so bad if all they did was to observe and report, but they were most often recognized for being provocateurs, attempting to provoke crimes. Indeed, I suspect that most of the domestic "terror plots" the FBI has "prevented" were ones they proposed in the first place. Politics is following suit, especially as the right becomes more desperate -- and while almost all of the current examples are from the right (in history these go back to Nixon's "dirty tricks" with Roger Stone, who Trump pardoned), it's possible the left could respond in kind. The result will likely be that no one on either side believes reports of misbehavior by their side. That won't "make us more divided," but it will make it harder to reconcile those divisions, as the "common ground" of facts becomes ever more tenuous.

Ian Millhiser: 3 winners and 3 losers from the just-completed Supreme Court term: "The biggest loser was democracy." Other "losers": Samuel Alito ("the Court's most reliable partisan," as evinced by his 8-1 loss on Obama), and unions. Winners: student-athletes, the "shadow docket," and the Republican Party (underscoring that first point about democracy). I thought it was too early before the 2020 election to talk about remedies for the right-wing takeover of the courts, as the only way to really explain the need is to point to actual cases where Republican jurists are making up partisan law on the fly. This term has given us some of those cases, even if for now they're mostly obscured in legal jargon. (Read the article for an explanation of "shadow docket." My takeaway is that it makes it easier for right-wing jurists to make arbitrary political decisions without having to fully consider the consequences.) What will really bring these decisions into the light is if Democrats start to win landslides, only to have the courts try to thwart the will of the people -- something Republicans are already well positioned to do.

To illustrate further, Millhiser also wrote SCOTUS just made Citizens United even worse, and The Supreme Court leaves the Voting Rights Act alive -- but only barely.

Joshua Partlow/Darryl Fears/Jim Morrison/Jon Swaine/Caroline Anders: Before condo collapse, rising seas long pressured Miami coastal properties. Not to say that this particular disaster was caused by anything but greed and incompetence, but with rising seas the entire coast is at risk. I always thought that politicians who claim to represent the interests of the rich should worry more about climate change, since the rich own most of that precious oceanfront property, and have the most to lose. Of course, as with any disaster, the not-so-rich suffered first and worst here.

Adam Serwer: The Cruel Logic of the Republican Party, Before and After Trump. Serwer has been the most reliable columnist at The Atlantic covering the Trump years, and he's written a new book about them: The Cruelty Is the Point: The Past, Present, and Future of Trump's America. (I ordered a copy, just arrived.) Why is clear from the first sentence here: "Donald Trump has claimed credit for any number of things he benefited from but did not create, and the Republican Party's reigning ideology is one of them: a politics of cruelty and exclusion that strategically exploits vulnerable Americans by portraying them as an existential threat, against whom acts of barbarism and disenfranchisement become not only justified but worthy of celebration." That's all you really need to know to understand why Trump became the party's leader: no one else has ever exemplified this commitment to cruelty so authentically and shamelessly. Trump, like his followers, was formed in the paranoid frenzy of Fox News, but unlike them he was a billionaire, and we assume that billionaires are the only people free enough to pursue their true beliefs. But if Trump's beliefs were the same as his followers, so he promised to empower them in a way no other American politician had ever done. There's been much talk about whether Trumpism will survive Trump, but Trump was just the reflection of a fundamental rot in the Republican Party. It's been there for a while, so the question isn't whether it will continue in the future. The only question is whether some other politician can pick up the mantle and convince the base to be its leader.

Timothy Snyder: The War on History Is a War on Democracy: A little bit about the recent spate of laws trying to outlaw the teaching of Critical Race Theory, set within the context of the anti-democratic history Snyder knows most about: Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, although even he can't ignore that it's really about whether we recognize and admit the long history of racism in the United States. Of course, those who seek to ban CRT claim they are the real anti-racists. "The fight against racism becomes the search for a language that makes white people feel good."

Michael Wolff: Donald Trump's January 6: Excerpt from Wolff's third "insider" book on the Trump presidency, Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency (out July 27). Not much surprising here, which I suppose is a tribute to how consistent Trump has been in his outrageousness. A couple of related articles help put the insurrection into historical context: Rick Perlstein: The Long Authoritarian History of the Capitol Riot ("What Democrats have been slow to understand is that this is an insurgency with parliamentary and paramilitary wings"), and Mychal Denzel Smith: How January 6 Will Be Remembered by Trump's Supporters ("They will forge on with a new Lost Cause").

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Daily Log

Michael Biggs commented on my Music Week digression on hearing music at various ages/times:

"by the time I became aware of Presley he was a mediocre actor". ?? EP was there; what was the delay?

Neither "16 Tons" nor "Mack the Knife" were novelty songs. They were good and I liked them then and I like them now. OK, as a '49 I may b able to bring a more mature ear to the process. But I doubt that other class of '50 stalwarts such as Greg Morton or Clifford Ocheltree missed Presley ... and I'm sure heard the good music he recorded after he became a mediocr actor.

That's all I could read.

Q: If you look like sex on a stick, who cares if you are a mediocre actor?

Q: if you sing like sex on a stick, who cares if you are a mediocre actor?

I don't think Wanda Jackson or Ann-Margaret cared. I doubt that Jame Burton cared. I don't care.

You can "Rocket 88" etc all you want: Elvis Presley made rock 'n' roll and opened the doors. Music thereafter would not have been the same or, at least, not have had the same exposure and impact. What a shame to have missed the train.

But that was in the day. He was no BTO or BOA or KOA.

I replied:

My parents had no interest in music (or literature or art). I was the oldest child, and had very little contact with older children or young adults. I don't recall any of them having any interest in music. (I did have a cousin who got me interested in baseball, and later in politics.) We did have a toy record player that could only play 45s, and I remember a stack of 3-4 dozen singles. I was older than 7, closer to 10-12, when those records started to make an impression. One record I did plea to buy was "The Monster Mash," but that didn't come out until 1962. I loved Dr. Seuss and Ogden Nash, so even that late what appealed to me was mostly humor (hence my novelty remark). The only movies I remember going to were comedies (Abbott & Costello, Ma & Pa Kettle, Jerry Lewis). I had no clue about "sex on a stick." I no doubt heard some Presley songs before he was drafted, but they didn't make much of an impression. I knew Ricky Nelson much better, because we watched the Nelsons on TV. Aside from such scattered vague memories, I didn't hear the 1950s until the 1970s (or in some cases the 1990s). I eventually remembered seeing Armstrong, Cole, Sinatra on TV, but very little (if any) Presley (except for the movies). I couldn't relate to Sinatra's music until much later, but thought he was a superb actor. ("The Man With the Golden Arm" left me with a permanent terror of heroin.) But by the time the Beatles came around, I was ready. I got my own record player, and started buying albums as well as singles (not many, as I was basically scrimping from my lunch money).

Biggs replied:

Tom Hull You were lucky to be able to watch O&H and see Rick(y) Nelson - good looking and good music; our reception was so bad that the sceen was mostly a snow storm. I bought the 45 of "The Monster Mash" and never have regretted it. I didn't really know what sex was, only knew that there was something called sex and that it was the big deal and that with the passage of time it would still be a mystery. My "Beatles" record player cost $19 and was a piece of junk: but it played the few LPs I managed to buy. I am scared to death of heroin. I guess that whatever route it takes, if we find some part of the promised land then we are lucky.

Phil Overeem:

Tom, none of my relatives had ANY interest in the arts, beyond my mom lusting after Glen, Neil, and Tom and occasionally getting their records (not that arty). I believe the vacuum created my lifelong drive. Born in '62.

Dwight Bemisderfer:

I can appreciate the sentiment about, musically speaking, feeling lucky to be born in 1950. I was born in 1970 and have recently considered what a magnificent vista I had for listening to '70s AM radio as an elementary school kid; looking back to what were deemed "oldies" ('50s & '60s) when I was a tween; experiencing firsthand the eruption of pop music in the mid-80s on the radio (we didn't have cable TV, so the only music videos I saw were on NBC's Friday Night Videos and PBS's ColorSounds); and discovering "classic rock" in high school. Not to mention what I got to live through and experience as a young adult going to concerts in the '90s and beyond.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (finished).

Music: Current count 35715 [35664] rated (+51), 205 [211] unrated (-6).

June Streamnotes (link above) wraps up this week. I'll do the indexing later, but a quick fgrep shows 203 albums for the month. I started last week thinking about 1971, which explains old music by Curtis Mayfield, Ike & Tina Turner, and Archie Shepp. I came up shorter in A- records this week, but a couple of those Shepp albums could merit further listening. I haven't been able to follow Hat's Ezz-thetics series, but noticed that they have a new Blase and Yasmina Revisited reissue. I should also note that I decided to go with reissues of the individual BYG albums, not the twofers that later appeared on Affinity.

The Joe Newman reissue got me to take a look at his back catalog, which in turn led me to two of my favorite 1950s tenor saxophonists: Illinois Jacquet and Budd Johnson. Nothing I found there blew me away, but I did enjoy every minute of the search. Johnson's Let's Swing remains one of the all-time great tenor sax albums. Newman's 1955-56 albums, The Count's Men and I Feel Like a New Man, are highly recommended, and there is a lot of primo Jacquet to choose from.

Listened to more new music last week, but non-jazz forays were few and far between. Main find was an EP that didn't show up in any of my 2020 lists, but its videos have gotten a lot of notice. See this one to get the key song, "Rät," in real time, then look at this one for the annotation. I got the tip from Phil Overeem, who also recommended Ashnikko, another young woman who knows a lot about the world. I shouldn't be surprised, but following politics I'm constantly bombarded with staggering levels of stupidity.

Many thanks to Dave Everall for posting Music Week notices on Facebook's Expert Witness thread -- something I've never gotten the hang of. Last week's post elicited a few comments, mostly about Elton John in the 1980s. I wrote about the documentary series 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything and its Univeral-delimited soundtrack album last week. The series was based on David Hepworth's book, Never a Dull Moment: 1971: The Year That Rock Exploded, so Clifford Ocheltree posted a link to a 283-song Spotify playlist based on the book. I asked for opinions on the book, but only after doing a bit of due diligence. I quoted one line I found in the book: "I was born in 1950. For a music fan, that's the winning ticket in the lottery of life." Several readers took offense at that line.

Of course, it resonated for me because I was born in 1950. But also because I've thought quite a bit about the effect of age at time. For instance, I was significantly different in 1957, 1964, 1971, and 1978, which were four pivotal years in the history of rock. My first memories of popular music date from around 1957, but they don't include emerging rock stars like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Buddy Holly. What I remember from the late 1950s are novelties, including my longstanding love for "16 Tons" (Tennessee Ernie Ford) and "Mack the Knife (Bobby Darin) -- versions that neither older nor younger critics would still prefer. I eventually filled in the gaps, but older critics like Robert Christgau (b. 1942) and Greil Marcus (b. 1945) experienced the birth of rock and roll in real time -- like I did the Beatles and the British Invasion as a teenager in 1964. By the time I became aware of Presley, he was a mediocre actor whose career was interrupted by the Army, so he meant little to me (whereas he meant the world to my elders, especially to Marcus). I know all the songs now, but have little sense of how the chronology played out. On the other hand, I lived through everything from 1964 on, fully conscious of who broke new ground and what followed up.

I suppose it's possible that I imposed that 7-year cycle on the available music, as opposed to it fortunately synching up with my life. I don't see anything comparable looking back to 1950, 1943, 1936, 1929 (although the crash did end the "roaring '20s"). Going forward there's some evidence for 1985 (Michaelangelo Matos wrote a recent book on 1984 as a pivotal year in music) and 1992 (grunge and gangsta take over), but what's groundbreaking about 1999, 2006, 2013, 2020? Maybe the music, like me, is getting old? Maybe as old people we just don't notice the changes? What is certain is that we don't live them the same way.

It's also possible that change is changing. Kurt Andersen, in his book Evil Geniuses, argues that the decadal changes in fashion and design which made it easy to date artifacts from the 20th century have largely vanished in the 21st. My 2006 car doesn't look far removed from 2021 models, unlike the differences between my father's series of cars (1932, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1979, 1987 -- that '73 Maverick was a real lemon). Progress was dramatic in the 20th century, but it's harder to discern in the 21st: technological changes are more esoteric and harder to grasp, and often turn out to be mixed blessings (e.g., climate). But also blame politics for increasing inequality, which makes affluence harder to come by and hope for.

Aside from music, I've long been conscious of the peculiar blessings and handicaps of my age. Nearly all of my cousins are older than me, some a mere two years younger than my father, so they offer a sample group of birth dates from 1925-50, and the second-cousins start up in 1949. What I concluded was that the ones born in the late 1930s were most fortunate: they didn't remember the Depression, were too young for WWII and Korea, and too old for Vietnam; they came of age during the postwar boom, included the first in our family to go to college, many started businesses and prospered, and retired with a fair degree of comfort (several touring the country in RVs, which is sort of a generational calling card). They all lived much longer than their parents, and were generally better off. On the other hand, most are dead now, or getting pretty old, so younger generations do have that advantage.

Long ago it occurred to me that there never before was a generation gap as large as the one between my cohort and our parents. The obvious point at the time is that we grew up in a time of sudden affluence and expanding horizons, whereas they grew up during the Great Depression and had to surive World War. But as I thought more about it, I realized that a lot of things started shifting between the end of the war in 1945 and the stalemate in Korea in 1952. The very week I was born, China entered Korea and drove American forces back from the border. Americans didn't realize that they had switched sides, ceasing to be liberators and turning into the backstop of western imperialism. The decline wasn't instantly obvious. We grew up thinking we were on top of the world, and became increasingly cross when the world had other ideas. I recently saw an Elizabeth Warren meme that dated the war on the middle class to "thirty years ago," but there were earlier stages: fifty years ago domestic oil production peaked, and the US started running trade deficits. A sensible choice then would have been to tax oil (like Europe was doing), but we pretended nothing was happening (after all, domestic and foreign oil were controlled by the same international corporations). In the 1970s, capitalists (increasingly financiers) plotted to take over the government and get rid of all the countervailing power/public interest "nonsense" -- with slower growth the only way they could maintain profits was to take more -- and in 1980, they managed to get Ronald Reagan elected.

It's been all down hill from there, so of course people growing up now view the world much differently than we did.

Rapper Timothy Parker died last week, at 49. He called himself Gift of Gab, started with the group Blackalicious. I wrote about them for Rolling Stone. I thought his 2018 EP Rejoice! Rappers Are Rapping Again! was terrific.

Two more major musicians died last week: Jon Hassell (84), played trumpet over "fourth world" electronica; and Frederic Rzewski (83), pianist/composer.

I will have answers to some questions later in the week. Also the indexing on Streamnotes. Don't know about Speaking of Which, but it's hard not to find things to write about these days.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Rebecca Angel: Love Life Choices (2021, Timeless Grooves): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ashnikko: Demidevil (2021, Parlophone, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steven Bernstein: Community Music (2020 [2021], Royal Potato Family, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dopolarians: The Bond (2021, Mahakala Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Robert Finley: Sharecropper's Son (2021, Easy Eye Sound): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fire in Little Africa (2021, Motown): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sean Michael Giddings: Red Willow (2021, Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Pedro Giraudo Tango Quartet: Impulso Tanguero (2021, Tiger Turn): [r]: B
  • Ben Goldberg: Everything Happens to Me (2018 [2021], BAG Productions): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • John Hart: Checkmate (2019 [2021], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kevin Hays/Ben Street/Billy Hart: All Things Are (2020 [2021], Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • David Helbock: The New Cool (2020 [2021], ACT Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Cassandra Jenkins: An Overview on Phenomenal Nature (2021, Ba Da Bing): [r]: B+(**)
  • Julian Lage: Squint (2021, Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lorraina Marro: Love Is for All Time (2021, self-released): [cd]: B+(**) [07-15]
  • Jason Nazary: Spring Collection (2020 [2021], We Jazz): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Pluto Juice: Pluto Juice (2019 [2021], Contagious Music): [cd]: B+(*) [07-16]
  • Samo Salamon/Hasse Poulsen: String Dancers (2020 [2021], Sazas): [cd]: B+(**) [09-01]
  • Penelope Scott: Public Void (2020, Tesla's Pigeon, EP): [r]: A-
  • Senyawa: Alkisah (2021, Burning Ambulance): [bc]: B
  • Chris Speed: Light Line (2018 [2021], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Natsuki Tamura: Koki Solo (2020 [2021], Libra): [cd]: B+(**) [07-09]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Hamiet Bluiett: Bearer of the Holy Flame (1983 [2021], Strut): [r]: A-
  • ICP Orchestra: Plays Herbie Nichols in Nijmegen 7 May 1984 (1984 [2020], ICP): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Joe Newman: Joe Newman at the Atlantic (1977 [2021], Phontastic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Cecil Taylor Ensemble: Göttingen (1990 [2021], Fundacja Sluchaj, 2CD): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Cecil Taylor Quintet: Lifting the Bandstand (1998 [2021], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: A-
  • Barney Wilen Quartet feat. Tete Montoliu: Barney and Tete Grenoble '88 (1988 [2020], Elemental): [r]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Illinois Jacquet: Swing's the Thing (1957, Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Illinois Jacquet: Bottoms Up: Illinois Jacquet on Prestige! (1968, Prestige): [r]: B+(***)
  • Illinois Jacquet: Bottoms Up [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1974 [1997], Black & Blue): [r]: B+(**)
  • Illinois Jacquet: God Bless My Solo [The Defiitive Black & Blue Sessios] (1978 [2001], Black & Blue): [r]: B+(***)
  • Budd Johnson: The Chronological Budd Johnson 1944-1952 (1944-52 [2003], Classics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Budd Johnson: French Cookin' (1963, Argo): [r]: B+(**)
  • Budd Johnson With Joe Newman: Off the Wall (1964 [1965], Argo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Curtis Mayfield: Curtis/Live! (1971, Curtom): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jason Moran: The Armory Concert (2016, Yes): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Joe Newman With Frank Foster: Good 'n' Groovy (1961, Prestige Swingsville): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joe Newman: I Love My Woman [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1979 [2000], Black & Blue): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gil Scott-Heron: Pieces of a Man (1971, Flying Dutchman): [r]: B+(***)
  • Archie Shepp: Life at the Donaueschingen Music Festival (1967, SABA): [r]: B+(***)
  • Archie Shepp: Blasé (1969, BYG): [r]: B+(***)
  • Archie Shepp: Yasmina, a Black Woman (1969, BYG): [r]: B+(***)
  • Archie Shepp: Poem for Malcolm (1969, BYG): [r]: B+(**)
  • Archie Shepp: Live at the Panafrican Festival (1969 [1971], BYG): [r]: B+(***)
  • Archie Shepp: Things Have Got to Change (1971, Impulse!): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ike & Tina Turner: 'Nuff Said (1971, United Artists): [r]: B+(*)
  • Barney Wilen: Jazz Sur Seine (1958 [2000], Gitanes Jazz): [r]: A-

Further Sampling:

Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

  • Milford Graves/Jason Moran: Live at Big Ears (2018-20 [2021], Yes): [bc]: +
  • Jason Moran: Bangs (2016 [2017], Yes): [bc]: +
  • Jason Moran: Mass {Howl, Eon} (2017, Yes): [bc]: +
  • Jason Moran and the Bandwagon: Looks of a Lot (2017 [2018], Yes): [bc]: +
  • Jason Moran: Music for Joan Jonas (2017 [2018], Yes): [bc]: ++
  • Jason Moran: The Sound Will Tell You (2021, Yes): [bc]: +

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Alex Collins/Ryan Berg/Karl Latham: Together (Dropzonejazz)
  • Roy Hargrove/Mulgrew Miller: In Harmony (2006-07, Resonance, 2CD) [07-17]
  • Bob Mintzer & WDR Big Band Cologne: Soundscapes (MCG Jazz)

Friday, June 25, 2021

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

In Tuesday's Music Week, I noted that I didn't have anything written for a links/comments post this week. But Wednesday's local newspaper was so depressing that I figured I should at least take a quick look around. A quick synopsis of news items from the Wichita Eagle (sorry, no links; the paper comes as download images):

  • Started with a page one piece on how Wichita and Sedgwick County agreed to merge their parks and recreation departments, to facilitate public-private ventures. That might be a theoretically defensible idea, but any time you hear "public" and "private" together, the public is getting fleeced by private interests. (Last week, there was an article on how Wichita paid $10 million for a Topgolf facility, while Oklahoma City got the same private investment for nothing.) There is something to be said for decentralizing and depoliticizing decision-making, especially about the arts, but the likely net effect will be that no new public projects will be undertaken, leaving us with only those options investors think they can make money from.

  • The Police Chief reported on "a busy weekend": nine people were shot, including an AR-15 attack on a police officer. They're joining a federal "crackdown" program, aimed at arresting more suspicious people. The jails are already full, but the Police Chief says that's not his problem.

  • The last grocery store in "Wichita's historically African-American neighborhood" is closing, adding to the city's "food deserts."

  • A privately owned zoo-plus-water-park (Tanganyika Wildlife Park) was closed when people who used the pool came down with diarrhea (later identified as shigella). Lawsuits ensue.

  • DC bridge collapses, injuring several. Photos and video. Then there was the Condo collapse near Miami.

  • "U.S. seizes Iranian news sites for unknown reasons." A second version of the article "alleges disinformation." They also blocked the sites of Palestine Today (linked to Hamas) and El-Masirah (linked to Houthi "rebels" in Yemen).

  • The paper reprinted a Bloomberg editorial calling for the federal gasoline tax to be replaced by a VMT (vehicle miles traveled tax), which is just wrong on so many levels. This is related to the Republican push for "use taxes" to fund infrastructure projects -- anything to avoid taxing the rich, although given that VMT also works as a subsidy for gas guzzlers and a penalty for electric cars, you can guess which business interests are involved.

  • "Australia's runaway mouse plague forces mass evacuation from prison." I started with local pieces, and didn't plan on going this far afield, but couldn't resist the title.

  • "A record buyout is just start as wealthy flee US tax hike." Something the wealthy are uniquely positioned to do, but doesn't selling out depend on finding greater fools to buy up? And aren't such fools equally rich?

  • Finally, I saw a piece on the Aston Martin Valkyrie, a cutting edge sports car that can accelerate 0-60 in 2.6 seconds, and sells for $3.5 million. There was a day when I was enchanted by high-end sports cars, but they were never this inaccessible or useless. (Cue the Buzzcocks: "Fast Cars.") I'm not sure which is worse: that they would build such a thing, or that some people are so filthy rich there's a market for it. (Admittedly, compared to the latest in boats and planes, or thanks to Bezos and Mus, space ships, it may still be viewed as a cheap trifle.)

There was also the usual bad political news, as Republican senators filibustered the voting rights bill, and the Supreme Court handed down various rulings, including a particularly nasty (6-3) one against unions (see Ian Millhiser's articles, below). Also severe drought news from the western US, and record-setting heat waves from Finland across Russia and into Washington/Oregon. But what's more depressing about the items listed above is how far we seem to be from making the mental adjustments to live in our very complex and possibly fragile world.

Bret Bachman: DeSantis signs bill requiring Florida students, professors to register political views with state. Title doesn't do a very good job of clarifying what the fuck is going on here, but you have to be in a rather peculiar frame of mind both to see what the problem is that the bill is trying to rectify, and how the bill is supposed to actually achieve its purpose. You have to understand that Republicans believe that any young person who doesn't share their beliefs has somehow been indoctrinated with left-wing anti-American propaganda, and that college professors are among the chief conduits of this evil scheme. But what leads them to such a conclusion is their own belief in the efficacy of propaganda, because that's how conservative ideology has become so deeply, irrationally maintained. And if you look closer, you'll discover that what really unnerves them about professors (and knowledgeable people in general) is that they encourage people to research issues and think for themselves. A telling phrase in this article is the characterization of Florida universities as "socialism factories."

Debbie Downer: : Trump wanted his Justice Department to stop 'SNL' from teasing him. For four year, about the only saving grace from the day-to-day news was to watch sharp and sometimes brutal takedowns of Trump and his mob night after night on late TV -- the icing on the cake, until the pandemic hit, was the live audiences cheering every jeer. It's not necessary, or even the point, but it's nice to know that they got under Trump's thin skin. His reaction was typically authoritarian, a fancy 14-letter word for asshole, and it's totally in character for a guy who campaigned in 2016 for a law which would allow rich folk to sue anyone who offends them. I never heard any more about that after the election, but the idea is true to his heart, brain, and pocketbook.

Kansas City Star Editorial Board: Swamp 101: Joe Manchin asks billionaire donors to get Roy Blunt to do their bidding. Manchin was trying to push the January 6 Commission bill past a Republican filibuster, having already tied his shoelaces together by keeping the filibuster in force. That seems to matter to Manchin a lot because he thinks it would show bipartisan legislation is possible without ending the filibuster rule. Still, it's revelatory that he thinks a few donors could sway Blunt on a matter of partisan survival. Blunt isn't as far gone as his junior Senator Josh Hawley, but he's been reliably in lock step with McConnell all the way.

For what it's worth, Manchin doesn't bother me much. David A Graham (Joe Manchin was never a mystery) sums him up nicely: "It's always been pretty obvious who he is: a middle-of-the-road guy with good electoral instincts, decent intentions, and bad ideas." Democrats need politicians like him, especially in areas where Republicans tend to win. It's not so much that they counterbalance the left, as that they represent people the left can still talk to, and share values with. On the other hand, they do seem stuck in a lot of obsolete mental ruts. Manchin's plea for a bipartisan voting rights act failed because Republicans don't have any qualms about pursuing blatantly partisan advantage. A few years ago, Manchin tried to organize a bipartisan agreement for a very modest level of gun control, and again he failed as he found all Republicans in lock step with the NRA. His continuing support for the filibuster may be little more than an instinct not to rock the boat too hard, but sooner or later he'll have to realize that it's preventing him from accomplishing anything he or his precious "centrists" want. Even more than liberal/left Democrats need politicians like Manchin to reach out into Red States, he and they need more progressive Democrats to get their own modest interests represented. Because the Republicans for damn sure aren't going to help them at all.

Sarah Jones: It looks like Buffalo will have a socialist mayor: India Walton, who defeated incumbent mayor Byron Brown in the Democratic primary. Ever since my cousin moved to Buffalo around 1970, it's been one of my favorite travel destinations, and she's become such a booster that I've never come away with a bad impression of the city -- well, maybe that one Spring Break when it snowed every day -- although it has a reputation as a city in long decline. (I do remember the iron-red sunsets from 1971, but the plants that caused them are long gone.) So this feels personal in a way that, for instance, Milwaukee isn't. Haven't checked with my cousin yet, but good chance she knows, and supports, Walton.

Paul Krugman: Why won't Republicans rebuild America? After beating around the bush, he finally concludes: "The modern GOP just won't do public programs unless they offer vast opportunities for profiteering." The Reagan mantra was "greed was good," but even that was framed in such a way as to suggest that it would be good for more than just the greedy. Krugman cites the Bush-Rove Medicare D law, which required beneficiaries to buy private insurance for prescriptions, promising that the magic of competition would keep costs down, but it's mostly led to shady formulary manipulations meant to offload costs and increase profits, so now it's a prime example of how government creates markets for predatory companies. Infrastructure was one of Trump's most popular campaign planks, but all his Republican staff could come up with were private sector carve outs, because they've fully bought into the Reagan-era mantras about magic markets, incapable government, and the denial that there even a public interest.

Krugman also wrote Yellen's new alliance against leprechauns, about the proposal Biden pushed at the Group of 7 summit (and found a welcoming audience) to limit how companies use their international footprints to evade paying taxes. Back when I first read about such ideas in a 2019 book by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay, they seemed unspeakable -- not just while Trump was president, but it was hard to imagine Obama or Clinton promoting them either. Indeed, the driving force behind globalization had much less to do with market efficiencies (which in a truly free and open market should net benefit customers) than with flipping the power dynamics between companies and states. Krugman's example is Apple, which conspicuously uses Ireland as a tax and asset haven (whence the titular leprechauns).

Damian Paletta/Yasmeen Abutaleb: Inside the extraordinary effort to save Trump from covid-19: Adapted from the authors' book, Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration's Response to the Pandemic That Changed History. Several points here: one is that Trump was very ill, and his recovery depended on experimental medicines applied massively, under extraordinary intense medical care; another is that he didn't learn anything from the experience. I'd revise that: after surviving, his ego exploded, making him extraordinarily arrogant and dismissive. He gave no credit to how exceptional his care war, claiming all credit for his willpower and genes. When I first heard of his illness, I felt a pang of sympathy, but quite frankly we'd all be better off had he died. The rest of his campaign was built on his personal triumph over the disease. His message was to not let the pandemic tell us how to live, and his fans were moved by his ersatz bravery, even as more and more of them succumbed. Even today, he's the poster boy for those who refuse the vaccine. We're still a long way from herd immunity, and the main reason for that is he survived the virus. Of course, the book covers much more, as he and his administration failed every step of the way.

Among the related links, note Timothy Bella: Coronavirus outbreak killed two at Fla. office, official says. A vaccinated person was spared. Stories like this should have an effect, but won't. I'm getting increasingly upset with unvaccinated Americans. (Of course, elsewhere in the world few people have the opportunity to be vaccinated, but increasingly in the US it is only people who are selfishly ignorant who haven't availed themselves of their privilege.) In particular, I don't see how anyone can claim any understanding of patriotism and refuse to get vaccinated. I'm close to the least jingoistic person in the world on that score, but isn't the one thing that all patriots claim is their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the community? By the way, see Marion Renault: Being vaccinated isn't a private matter. It's everyone's business.

Assal Rad: Iran's presidential election demonstrates the limits of US pressure campaign. Iran just held elections to choose a new president. As has been widely reported, most "moderate candidates," including logical successors to President Hassan Rouhani, were denied a chance to run, leaving the field open for "right-wing" Ebrahim Raisi to win easily. I put these camps in quotes, because they're little more than relative tendencies within the permissible Iranian political spectrum, which is ultimately controlled by Ayatollah Khamenei. One might think that Rouhani would have been easier for Americans to deal with, and the JCPOA "nuclear deal" that Obama negotiated and Trump tore up seems to be evidence of that, but the fact is that American security wonks (and more importantly, their Israeli masters) hate both camps, and don't want to see anything reduce the level of antagonism between the Iran and the US (and Israel and Saudi Arabia, whose separate hatred for Iran is what binds then to the US). (Indeed, there is evidence that anti-Iran hawks prefer Raisi; see Ryan Costello: US hawks push hardline presidential candidate in Iran.) I've seen arguments that Supreme Leader Khamanei (81) is grooming Raisi as his successor (although Muhammad Sahimi, in The who's who of Iranian players behind the new president, see Raisi as a facilitator to allowing Khamenei to be succeeded by his son, Mojtaba Khamenei). That all suggests that re-opening the JCPOA negotiations is secondary to domestic political considerations -- no matter how central they may seem to the Biden administration. Indeed, Khamanei has always been calling the shots, and that's the one thing the election won't change. But isn't the US the real variable in this equation? Rad's point is that sanctions don't work to force countries like Iran to behave as the US wants, but relieving sanctions is something to negotiate over. The problem with the JCPOA treaty was that soon after it was signed, the US came up with a bunch of new sanctions to impose on Iran, making sure that the rapprochement wouldn't develop into anything more. Under Trump, there was no chance of peaceful coexistence. Under Biden there is a slim one, but his people are going to have to break out of the moribund mindset that has routinely failed since 2001 (or 1989, or 1948).

Also see: Trita Parsi: What to take away from new Iranian president's debut; and Gary Sick: What the election of Ebrahim Raisi tells us about the future of Iran.

Alexander Sammon: The Supreme Court is closer to a 9-0 corporatist supermajority than a 3-3-3 split: "No amount of regrouping can obviate the need for Supreme Court reform." Although I'd caution that it's impossible to reform the Supreme Court until you can build a strong political consensus on what needs to be reformed. That means that Democrats have to start winning landslide elections, which doesn't seem likely to happen any time soon (with or without voting tweaks, which despite all the rhetoric about saving or destroying democracy is all current legislative efforts will do). The 6-3 conservative/liberal split over "culture war" issues is the one that gets the most publicity, but this week's judgments have split variously. One common denominator: "The Roberts Court, including its 'liberals,' has been an outstanding ally of corporate power."

David Sirota makes the same point: Today's Supreme Court isn't moderate. It's pro-corporate and anti-worker. For last week's Supreme Court decisions, see Ian Millhiser:

Walter Shapiro: Why are Democrats acting like the sky is falling? "The Biden administration has already accomplished a lot -- and the party is in a better position than many on the left claim." I don't like everything they've done, especially in the foreign policy realm, but I am pleased with a lot of things, and pleasantly surprised on some. Biden certainly compares favorably to Obama at this point in his presidency, and has had to work without large Democratic majorities in Congress (like Obama had, and blew). I don't even mind this piece of news: Biden claims bipartisan win with deal on infrastructure. Sure, it's only half a loaf (well, more like a third), and even at that it's not a done deal. And sure, Republicans (and even now, only a handful) are only agreeing because they realize that infrastructure is overwhelmingly popular, and they figure this will give them a better campaign story than their usual die-hard obstruction. But I'd be happy to see this much get through and turned into work, and I'd also be happy to campaign in 2022 on the need for more infrastructure investment, and on the taxes to properly support it. On the other hand, I don't see a case for fretting about the left. That's where the ideas that are making Biden look good come from, and that's the energy base. We need to be smart about politics, as well as principled.

On the other hand, it doesn't hurt to check the fine print: e.g., Kate Aronoff: The bipartisan infrastructure bil is a gift to Wall Street, at the planet's expense.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 35664 [35610] rated (+54), 211 [214] unrated (-3).

Ran a day late in posting this. The cutoff was on schedule, late Sunday evening, but I got distracted by the busy work noted below.

More mid-year best albums lists (including country and hip-hop specialists, and one short jazz list):

If I had to construct a jazz list at the moment, it would be something like (scraped from my Year 2021 list):

  1. Sons of Kemet: Black to the Future (Impulse!)
  2. James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet: Jesup Wagon (Tao Forms)
  3. Magnet Animals: Fake Dudes (RareNoise)
  4. Barry Altschul's 3Dom Factor: Long Tall Sunshine (Not Two)
  5. Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die Live (International Anthem)
  6. Dave Rempis/Tomeka Reid/Joshua Abrams/Tim Daisy/Tyler Damon: The Covid Tapes: Solos, Duos, & Trios (Aerophonic, 2CD)
  7. Ivo Perelman Trio: Garden of Jewels (Tao Forms)
  8. Aki Takase/Christian Weber/Michael Griener: Auge (Intakt)
  9. Wadada Leo Smith: Sacred Ceremonies (TUM, 3CD)
  10. Irène Schweizer/Hamid Drake: Celebration (Intakt)

If we were running a Jazz Critics Poll at the moment, only my top two are likely to wind up top ten, with outside shots for Jaimie Branch, Wadada Leo Smith, and maybe one of the Intakt pianists (neither has placed high before, but the label gets attention). Other big names you might see: Miguel Zenón (A-), Vijay Iyer (***), Charles Lloyd (***), Thumbscrew (***), Floating Points/Pharoah Sanders (**), although my guesses are increasingly suspect as you go down my list. Is Joe Lovano (with or without Dave Douglas) a cause célèbre any more? Does the other 3-CD Wadada Leo Smith box overcome its solo trumpet limits? Has anyone actually heard the 10-CD William Parker box? I haven't, although I did finally check out the sampler (below). I'm not seeing much else I haven't heard yet that strikes me as likely contenders. But I should take a look through here: several things that interest me (at least) on just the first page.

I've added the records mentioned to my tracking file (haven't tracked down all the labels and dates yet), so it now has more unrated (442) than rated (328) records. I haven't tried to compile the lists, and haven't gotten very far in checking them out, although a few albums I noticed there made it into this week's list.

We recently watched 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything, an 8-episode Apple TV+ documentary series made by Asif Kapadia in England, based on David Hepworth's book Never a Dull Moment: 1971 the Year That Rock Exploded (see: Rotten Tomatoes, no Wikipedia?; reviews in Guardian, Under the Radar, and a rather pissy piece in the New York Times). Reviews inevitably focus on who got included or left out, and whether 1971 was really more important than 1970 or 1972 (or 1967 or 1977), but I don't want to get mired in that (although one should note that they not only featured albums released in 1971, but also singles that were recorded in 1971 but didn't appear on albums until 1972 (like Exile on Main Street and Ziggy Stardust). [PS: I did review the soundtrack tie-in product after my cutoff, but decided to slip it in here. And yes, I did comment on what was and wasn't included.] I will say that there was some remarkable footage. For me, it was most interesting to recheck my memories and nostalgia. In my case, 1971 was something of a low point in my interest in music, which had been waning during several years of self-imposed confinement, and was rekindled once I went to college in St. Louis in 1972, although I was very much aware of key events, like Nixon's escalation in Vietnam, Kent State, and Attica. And while I didn't notice much music in real time in 1971, I made up for it in the next several years, as I found that music was the common denominator of the society I was struggling to enter. Hence, there was very little in the series that I didn't know, or at least catch up on over the next few years (which makes it not 50 years old to me, but 45+).

As this is 50 years after 1971, we're constantly running into anniversary reminders. (The one I'm most looking forward to is the release on HBO Max of my nephew Mike's documentary, Betrayal at Attica; see notices in Realscreen and C21 Media.) The most pedestrian of these tie-ins is the appearance of "best of 1971" album lists, like this one (the first I saw) at Yardbarker: Albums turning 50 in 2021 that everyone should listen to. These are 1971 releases. My grades are in brackets.

  1. Janis Joplin: Pearl [A-]
  2. Carole King: Tapestry [A-]
  3. The Rolling Stones: Sticky Fingers [A]
  4. Paul & Linda McCartney: Ram [B-]
  5. Marvin Gaye: What's Going On [A-]
  6. Carpenters: Carpenters [C]
  7. Rod Stewart: Every Picture Tells a Story [A]
  8. Funkadelic: Maggot Brain [B+]
  9. The Who: Who's Next [A+]
  10. The Bee Gees: Trafalgar [C-]
  11. Dolly Parton: Coat of Many Colors [A-]
  12. Billy Joel: Cold Spring Harbor [B]
  13. Elton John: Madman Across the Water [B-]
  14. MC5: High Time [B+(***)]
  15. Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin IV [A]
  16. Sly and the Family Stone: There's a Riot Goin' On [A]
  17. Harry Nilsson: Nilsson Schmilsson [B+(**)]
  18. David Bowie: Hunky Dory [A]
  19. John Prine: John Prine [A]
  20. John Lennon: Imagine [A+]

When I jotted that list down, I didn't have grades for 5 albums, so I scrambled to listen to them. Four were sensible decisions to have ignored, at least in an era where one actually had to buy albums. Reviews below.

Spin also has a better (and more obscurantist) 1971 list, 50 albums deep, so it catches some important titles missing from above, as well as dropping in more ordinary albums and a few genuine obscurities. Ones from their list I'd rate A- or better:

  1. The Stylistics: The Stylistics [A-]
  2. Curtis Mayfield: Roots [A-]
  3. Al Green: Gets Next to You [A]
  4. The Mahavishnu Orchestra with John McLaughlin: The Inner Mounting Flame [A]
  5. Joni Mitchell: Blue [A-]

I thought I might add a list of A-list albums they missed, then decided I should try my hand at compiling a fairly comprehensive annual list, like I've been compiling since 2002. That project got a little out of hand. It wasn't too hard to scan through my database for "1971" and pick out the actual releases, but most of my jazz records are listed by recording (as opposed to release) date, and I wanted to limit the list to actual (preferably US) releases that calendar year, so I had to do a lot of error checking. I also decided to go with original (preferably US) labels, whereas the database mostly had reissues. In some cases, I thought I should add notes contrasting the original releases with the reissues I actually listened to -- but I kept the database grades. I also decided to flag the jazz albums (J).

As I was error-checking, I added a section called "unheard records of some note." Obviously, there are thousands of 1971 releases that I haven't heard, so getting onto this list is pretty arbitrary. (Discogs has something like 120,000 1971 releases, but expect a lot of redundant entries for trivial differences, as well as tons of reissues from previous years. I started looking at the 12,000 jazz releases, and got about 25% into it.) While I was doing all this, I listened to a few 1971 albums I had missed, so I kept shuffling albums around.

A few quick observations:

  • The A/A+ lists are much longer than in recent years. Partly that's because those grades demand that records "stand the test of time," but also it's because these are records I've lived most of my life with.
  • On the other hand, the A- list is shorter, which reflects the fact that fewer albums were released back then. But also the share of jazz records is much smaller than in recent years (12/46, vs. about 50% in recent years). Other grade slots are similarly reduced.
  • The B+ category reflects albums graded before I started using the 1-3 star subdivisions. I've placed these after B+(*), but realistically they should be evenly distributed among the B+ grades.
  • The sharp fall off below B is, as it is today, the result of not bothering with records I didn't expect to like. It may also reflect the fact that I wasn't regularly keeping track of grades before 2000, so a number of records that I did listen to way back when never got graded.
  • I've kept the division between New Music and Reissues/Compilations/Vault Music, even though I don't have much to show for 1971. I've also loosened up the time requirements I've been using lately (10 years for vault music), especially where the artist has passed (Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane).

In theory, I could do this for other years, but looks like a lot of work. My guess is that 1970 would have a larger A-list, especially up top. Probably 1972 too. I started buying significant quantities of albums around 1974, so everything picks up from there, to about 1980. From then, the lists would slacken off, then pick up again around 1986, and more so when I started buying CDs. I started buying a lot of jazz and oldies c. 1995, and everything exploded when I started reviewing oldies in 2003 and jazz in 2004, and again when I started streaming around 2010. That finally made it cheap to listen to crap, and I've done plenty.

Jazz took a dive around 1970, aside from the fusion fad, which very few musicians showed any real skill at (Miles Davis, for sure, but not Herbie Hancock or Wayne Shorter, who still passed as pretty big successes). Jazz started to rebound in the US in the 1990s, but as art had been saved by small labels in Europe and Japan, and in any case it remains a music of small niches (definitely plural), despite being enormously creative. The thing about 1967-72 was that a lot of the innovation in those years was genuinely popular: we listened to the same records, and they were a common bond. I grew up in that environment, but by the time we published Terminal Zone we were starting to plot the fragmentation. Like the real universe, it's never gotten smaller, nor easier.

One more week before we wrap June Streamnotes. It's a 5-week month, so the monthly file is likely to be a big one (currently 162 records). Don't know whether I'll do a Friday news/opinion post. Scratch file for that is currently bare. Got virtually no reaction last week.

Got both of the porch rail projects done, thanks largely to Max Stewart, who always seems to be able to bail me out when I get in over my head. I spent what seemed like a lot of money (including a $50 shipping charge), and I'll never do business with them (Simplified Building) again. The hardware fit very loosely and/or awkwardly to the tubing, which was heavy but unattractive. The "self-tapping" screws weren't up to the job. Their instructions were wrong several places, resulting in drilling some holes too big, others too small. First thing I ever bought off an ad in Facebook, and may be the last.

I have one more rail piece on order from Amazon (item had a very long lead time). Assuming it fits right, it should be much easier to install. Also bought some small grab bars to locate by the doors, so you can hold on with one hand while opening the heavy screen doors. They came late today, so I still have to install them, but they should be easy.

Lots more making life difficult, but occasionally we make a bit of progress.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Rodrigo Amado This Is Our Language Quartet: Let the Free Be Men (2017 [2021], Trost): [cd]: A-
  • Armand Hammer & the Alchemist: Haram (2021, Backwoodz Studioz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bicep: Isles (2021, Ninja Tune): [r]: B+(**)
  • Abraham Burton/Lucian Ban: Black Salt: Live at the Baroque Hall (2018 [2021], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Brian Charette: Power From the Air (2020 [2021], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(*)
  • J. Cole: The Off-Season (2021, Dreamville/Roc Nation): [r]: B+(*)
  • Czarface/MF Doom: Super What? (2020 [2021], Silver Age, EP): [r]: A-
  • Dan Dean: Fanfare for the Common Man (2017-18 [2021], Origin Classical): [cd]: B-
  • John Dikeman/Hamid Drake: Live in Chicago (2018 [2020], Doek Raw): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Silke Eberhard Trio: Being the Up and Down (2020 [2021], Intakt): [r]: A-
  • Michael Formanek: Imperfect Measures (2017 [2021], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Garage A Trois: Calm Down Cologne (2019 [2021], Royal Potato Family): [r]: B+(*)
  • Doug Lofstrom: Music for Strings (2018-19 [2021], Origin Classical): [cd]: B-
  • Mach-Hommy: Pray for Haiti (2021, Griselda): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tobias Meinhart: The Painter (2021, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • William Parker: Trencadis: A Selection From Migration Into and Out of the Tone World (2019-20 [2021], Centering): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jeremy Pelt: Griot: This Is Important! (2020 [2021], HighNote): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ivo Perelman/Nate Wooley: Polarity (2020 [2021], Burning Ambulance): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Tom Rainey Obbligato: Untucked in Hannover (2018 [2021], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Skyzoo: All the Brilliant Things (2021, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(**)
  • Will St Peter/Steven Heffner/Steve Barnes: Honestly (2020 [2021], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The 2021 Jazz Heritage Series (2021, self-released): [cd]: C+
  • Jennifer Wharton's Bonegasm: Not a Novelty (2020 [2021], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything (1971 [2021], Island): [r]: A-
  • Gary Bartz NTU Troop: Live in Bremen 1975 (1975 [2021], Moosicus, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tim Berne/Chris Speed/Reid Anderson/Dave King: Broken Shadows (2018 [2021], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Julius Hemphill: The Boyé Multi-National Crusade for Harmony (1977-2007 [2021], New World, 7CD): [r]: A-

Old music:

  • Bee Gees: Trafalgar (1971, Atco): [r]: C-
  • Anne Briggs: Anne Briggs (1971, Topic): [r]: B+(***)
  • James Brown: Super Bad (1970 [1971], King): [r]: B+(***)
  • James Brown: Hot Pants (1971, Polydor): [r]: A-
  • James Brown: There It Is (1972, Polydor): [r]: A-
  • James Brown: Get on the Good Foot (1972, Polydor): [r]: B+(*)
  • Carlton and the Shoes: Love Me Forever (1978, Studio One): [yt]: B+(**)
  • Carpenters: Carpenters (1971, A&M): [r]: C
  • Grin: Grin (1971, Spindizzy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Grin [Nils Lofgren]: 1 + 1 (1971, Spindizzy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Grin: All Out (1972, Spindizzy): [r]: A-
  • Billy Joel: Cold Spring Harbor (1971 [1983], Columbia): [r]: B
  • Elton John: Elton John (1970, Uni): [r]: B-
  • Elton John: Madman Across the Water (1971, Uni): [r]: B-
  • Elton John: Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player (1973, MCA): [r]: B
  • Elton John: Caribou (1974, MCA): [r]: B
  • Elton John: Elton John's Greatest Hits Volume II (1971-76 [1977], MCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Elton John: Elton John's Greatest Hits Volume III 1979-1987 (1979-87 [1987], Geffen): [r]: B
  • Curtis Mayfield: Curtis (1970, Curtom): [r]: A-
  • Curtis Mayfield: Roots (1971, Curtom): [r]: A-
  • MC5: High Time (1971, Atlantic): [yt]: B+(***)
  • MC5: Babes in Arms (1966-71 [1983], ROIR): [bc]: A-
  • Helen Reddy: Helen Reddy (1971, Capitol): [r]: B+(***)
  • Helen Reddy: Helen Reddy's Greatest Hits (1971-75 [1975], Capitol): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Stylistics: The Stylistics (1971, Avco): [r]: A-
  • The Stylistics: The Best of the Stylistics (1971-74 [1975], Avco): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ike & Tina Turner: River Deep Mountain High (1966 [1969], A&M): [r]: A-
  • Ike & Tina Turner and the Ikettes: Come Together (1970, Liberty): [r]: A-
  • Ike & Tina Turner: What You Hear Is What You Get: Live at Carnegie Hall (1971, United Artists): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Rodrigo Amado This Is Our Language Quartet: Let the Free Be Men (Trost)
  • The Mark Masters Ensemble: Masters & Baron Meet Blanton & Webster (Capri) [06-18]

Friday, June 18, 2021

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

We gave up the paper edition of the Wichita Eagle six months or so ago. It had become extremely thin, was often misplaced by the delivery person, and then they killed off most of the comics I regularly read, adding new ones I had little interest in. During the cold snap, I wound up going to the computer instead of trekking outside, and eventually we decided that was good enough. This changed my daily routine: I get up, get some yogurt, and eat breakfast at the computer now, clicking my way through the news. Sometimes I'd see things that wind me up, and occasionally I wound up tweeting about them, but often that seemed insufficient and too transitory. I still don't want to revive Weekend Roundup, but as I was collecting open tabs, it occurred to me that it wouldn't hurt much to kick out a weekly post, not to round up news but to get a few things off my chest.

One decision was to release on Friday, instead of Sunday. This leaves my weekends free, and there's really not much news then anyway. I wanted to use the links purely as scaffolding for comments, not as something to collect for its own sake. I started collecting a few items last week, and found myself writing more than I've been doing in some while.

No guarantee this will be a regular feature. But it is bigger than expected, and surprisingly easy to assemble. I'm a lazy person, so it's likely I'll fall into the rut of doing easy things.

Zachary D Carter: The end of Friedmanomics: First, allow me a shout out to the author, whose The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes was one of 2020's best books. Less than half of that book was biography of Keynes -- a person as well as a set of ideas you should know about (I haven't read Robert Skidelsky's big biography, but did very much enjoy his shorter Keynes: Return of the Master) -- and the larger half gave an accounting of Keynes' legacy. Part of that was his supposed vanquishing by Milton Friedman in the 1970s, which has since come to look pretty shabby. One point worth reiterating is how conservative "prophets of freedom" remained closely aligned with the segregationist opponents of civil rights -- usually so explicitly you hardly needed to study critical race theory to figure out what they were doing.

Rebecca Heilweil: The controversy over Bill Gates becoming the largest private farmland owner in the US. There are probably a lot more stories like this, the best known probably being Ted Turner's bison ranches (see Is Ted Turner playing cowboy or hogging land?, from 2007). My parents grew up on farms, and were economically driven off the land in the 1930s, as farmers heeded the mantra, get big or get out. Since then, both people and riches have gone elsewhere, but given the limited opportunities for investing surplus profits, it was inevitable that the rich would start collecting farmland.

Doug Henwood: Take me to your leader: The rot of the American ruling class. Long article, covers a lot of history, and I haven't digest it all. But what the title suggests to me is illustrated by this: From George Washington to Jimmy Carter, most presidents have been rich, but most of them were bound by a sense of public trust and interest, and by a personal ethic that insisted on putting that public interest above their own personal enrichment. They haven't always understood public interest well, and they haven't always behaved as scrupulously as Washington and Carter, but nearly all of them tried to fit into that tradition. From Reagan on through Trump, you certainly can't say that about the Republicans, and Democrats Clinton and Obama did much better for themselves than for their voters. Jury's out on Biden, but so far he'd rather be seen as the un-Trump than as the Clinton-Obama successor. But we're not just talking about presidents, or indeed about politicians. Business has been taken over by egomaniacs and predators, with little interest in building and much in stripping wealth, including the creativity of workers. The twin conceptual pillars of the rise of the conservatives in the 1980s are Reagan's "greed is good" and Thatcher's "there is no society." The Democrats' failures are directly attributable to their eagerness to play along with such sociopathic notions, and have only served to reinforce those creeds among Republicans.

Tony Karon: Israel and the United States: Thinking about apartheid and the struggle for freedom. This puts Israel's struggle to establish and persevere within the broader context of settler colonies. I've been thinking along those lines for some time, concluding that colonies which establish >70% demographic dominance survive, and ones that fail to top 30% (Algeria came close) fail. The Zionist settlement in Israel as of 1948 had about 30% of the population, so it was borderline. Israel won out by surrendering a third of Palestine to Jordan and Egypt, and by driving 700,000 Palestinians into exile, leaving it with a demographic majority, which soon reached 70% with their campaigns to force Arab Jews (e.g., from Yemen and Iraq) into immigrating. Israel spent the next 20 years building up its military and police state, then swept up the rest of the Palestinian land, plus a slice of Syria, plus chunks of Egypt and (in 1982) Lebanon that they later abandoned. The result is that they're back to about a 50-50 demography, which they manage through an extremely discriminatory legal system, brutal enforcement, and impoverishment of their unwanted subjects. Americans have always sympathized with Israel, implicitly recognizing their common origins as settler colonies, but in the early 1900s, the US started to let up on its discrimination against its much-reduced aboriginal population, to the point that when Israelis liken Palestinians to American Indians, hardly anyone gets the point. Although it is perhaps significant that US Army strategists still model anti-guerrilla war operations on 19th century Indian wars, which is probably the last time they were successful -- again, while racism and genocidal weapons favored the US Army, demography was the most decisive factor. It's hard to tell right now what's driving Israeli politics so hard right: Is it hubris, thinking that they can continue to control all challenges internal and external? Or is it desperation? And if the latter, are there any limits to the violence they're likely to unleash in order to maintain order? They missed their opportunity in the 1990s to secure a state with a firm demographic majority, and the right has systematically wrecked any possibility of partition. The right, which you may recall was led by Netanyahu before Sharon out-maneuvered him, was convinced that might would win out, and compromise was not just undesirable but unnecessary. Also because average Israelis were seduced by the idea that they would always have to keep on fighting. But also because they couldn't count, and because they couldn't fathom the long-range impact of Israel's brutality on world opinion. [PS: For an indication of where the right-wing is moving, see Yumna Patel: 'Death to Arabs': Israeli 'Flag March' features racist anti-Palestinian chants.]

Eric Levitz: The limits of a wealth tax: This piece doesn't really address its subject, beyond mentioning the political difficulties in implementing any sort of wealth tax. The bigger problem is measuring wealth, and that's because most of it is unrealized, and as such is likely to be inflated (a word Yglesias objects to -- see my discussion below -- but we do need a word that is more substantial than "imaginary" but less burdened than "bubble-fied"). There is one important form of wealth tax where that would not be a problem: the estate tax. Were we to get serious about taxing etates, the simple solution would be to seize the estate, liquidate it, and split the proceeds (whatever they may be) between the government(s) and heirs (possibly including foundations). We don't do that, but other than political will, and some thorny issues with spouses and minor children (to the extent they are dependents, as opposed to heirs), we could do that. Otherwise, a wealth tax is like property taxes, based on an assessment of possibly dubious merit. (Example: my late father-in-law's house, purchased for $8,000 in the 1950s, was assessed by the property tax collector at $38,000 before his death. After he died, we wound up selling it for $10,500.)

The other topic of the article is whether we can pay for a robust social democracy by only raising taxes on the rich. Many pundits try to make the point that we cannot, as if that's supposed to deter us from trying. The rich have been chronically undertaxed, at least in the US, since the 1980s, and all we've gotten to show for that is an ever-widening chasm of inequality and an ever-growing public debt. The latter may not matter much, but raising taxes on the rich starts to reverse the inequality trend, and is the obvious place to start to fund much-needed public works. On the other hand, if we decide we need more public works than the rich can reasonably fund, the approach that most decent social democracies have followed is to adopt consumption taxes like the VAT. While not progressive, a VAT puts some downward pressure on prices and profits. I'd like to see a nationwide VAT replace local and state sales taxes -- comparable revenues could be funneled to the states, with the provision that should the states not spend the revenues, they could redistribute them equally.

Hamilton Nolan: Words that mean nothing, or "our political discourse is dominated by issues that don't exist," or "if you can push a bullshit issue into 'everybody knows' territory, you can get away with never having to define it at all." Examples range from "cancel culture" to "socialism" -- the latter, at least, used to mean something, but not what attackers on the right seem to think. Then there is "critical race theory," which was never more than a curious term for a methodology for findingracism in laws that weren't explicitly about race. The problem with vagueness and meaningless here is that Republicans in many states are seeking to ban the teaching of "critical race theory" in public schools. As those laws pass, courts will be asked what they apply to, as well as whether facts and ideas can be banned at all. Most likely, vagueness will end in those laws being overturned, adding to the right-wing's grievances against the courts, as they move on to their next outrage scam. (For an example a couple years past its shelf date, see the sharia law bans some states passed.)

For what it's worth, "critical theory" was a broad (and vague) term for a current in philosophy and social science developed by western Europeans (mostly Germans) in the 1920s-1950s, drawing on Marxians but not generally aligned with the Soviet Union. They were very skilled at discerning deep structures and resonances between culture/ideology and and more pervasive politico-economic forces. I studied their work, and got to where I could discern their patterns almost intuitively, but I rarely credit it these days, because they never were an authority -- they were profoundly subversive of all authority, including their own. I'll offer one brief example: Walter Benjamin wrote that "Baudellaire was a secret agent -- an agent of the secret discontent of his class with its own rule." [Fact check: Amy King.] Not only does this a new angle for analyzing 19th century poets (and other artists), it struck me that Marx himself could be profitably viewed as just such a secret agent.

The founders of "critical race theory" were aiming for fundamental insights, but their subject matter hardly required such depth. Their domain was law, and their object was to show that much law, even without explicit mention of race, was framed with racist intent. But really, who needs critical theory when you got overwhelming empirical proof? After all, so many laws backed by more-or-less clear expressions of racist intent and used to racist purpose that the patterns are obvious. Well, it's the right that needs to call any reference to racism from 1619 to the present a mere "theory." The right has conditioned its followers to dismiss "theory" as unproven speculation ever since Darwin. Calling it a "theory" suggests they can box it up, put a lid on it, and store it away, out of sight and out of mind. Of course, their problem isn't with any "theory" of racism. It's with any mention of the history of racism, with any implication that past racism has consequences in the present, and above all any suggestion that public policy should try to do anything to ameliorate the lingering effects of four centuries of racial discrimination and oppression.

But that in itself doesn't explain why they want to ban teaching about "critical race theory." To undestand that, you have to realize that the right has a peculiar understanding of education. They view it as indoctrination (or training), and indeed when given the chance, that's how they teach it. Their political success depends on people blindly following their dicta, no matter how incoherent or irrational. They may fear liberals seizing power and practicing indoctrination as well -- indeed, they often disparage liberal/left ideas as propaganda, repeated rote -- but what they really dread and hate is the notion that people should learn to think for themselves, and that education should give students the tools for analyzing and solving problems. Or as people like me used to put it: of thinking critically.

A couple more pieces on the "critical race theory" fracas: Alex Shephard: The specter of critical race theory is rotting Republicans' brains, and Jake Bittle: The Fox News guest behind the Republican frenzy over critical race theory (Christopher Rufo). Note "brain rot" again (see Doug Henwood, above). Less clear to me whether it's cause or effect. I'm tempted to argue that it's a good thing that Republicans are offended when they're called racists, but their preferred solution isn't to never talk about race, all the while making side comments that sure sound racist. Also on Rufo: Benjamin Wallace-Wells: How a conservative activist invented the conflict over critical race theory. Related here is Kerry Eleveld: Republicans don't even know how to talk to reality-based Americans anymore. Also He'd kill us if he had the chance: "As we've known for a long time, with conservatives everything is 100% projection."

Aldous J Pennyfarthing: The dumbest man in Congress wonders about FBI's role in planning Jan. 6 insurrection. No, really: Clickbait. Had to see who they referred to, given so many plausible contenders. Louis Gohmert. Duh! On the other hand, his fellow Republicans are trying harder; e.g., see Ed Kilgore: Andrew Clyde challenging Marjorie Taylor Greene for mantle of most extremist Georgian in Congress. Also Josh Kovensky: Inside Tom Cotton's insane world of DNA theft, Olympic athletes, and anti-China conspiracies.

Luke Savage: Novelist Cory Doctorow on the problem with intellectual property. Interview with the Science fiction writer, blogger/journalist, "not related to novelist E.L. Doctorow" (I had to look that up), a proponent of Creative Commons, interested in post-scarcity economics, author of You Can't Own Knowledge. The interview provides a good general overview of the various "intellectual property" (IP) issues, putting them into the proper context of monopoly grants, and includes useful history, especially on Bill Gates and Microsoft. Evidently, Doctorow has been working in this area for some time. My own views were first shaped by Richard Stallman, although I doubt I ever supported the idea of patents: the government-granted right of some people to sue other people for thinking independently (or thinking further about thoughts others had legal monopoly to). I'm always astonished at how a great many economists simply assume that patents are generally beneficial (although I wonder how many still would if they were described as monopolies or rents instead of as property. The main exception to this rule recently has been Dean Baker, who writes often on the issue: e.g., Patent monopolies and inequality: When we give rich people money, why does inequality surprise us? (Also see his free download book, Rigged, especially Chapter 5.)

Matt Stieb: What's driving the surge in ransomware attacks? There are lots of things wrong with the world these days, but I find few more aggravating than cybercrime. That's because it seems like something that shouldn't be so hard to detect, disable, and punish, but it isn't, seemingly because the authorities tolerate it -- one suspects that's largely because they enjoy participating in it, often glorifying it as cyberwarfare. Russia is a case example, as they seem to find it sporting to attack entities in country which arrogantly attack them with sanctions. Indeed, many nations -- Israel and Iran are good examples -- seem to have decided they can conduct cyberwarfare with no real risks of escalation, except that's their inevitable trajectory. The solution here, as in many other areas, requires cooperation, respect, and trust, things the US, with its either-you're-with-us-or-against-us mentality, is especially bad at. However, the fact that the US has historically been one of the world's worst offenders should offer some leverage if only we'd only change our minds and decide to negotiate an end to our own worst instincts. [PS: Evidently Biden at least broached the subject of a possible cybersecurity deal with Russia at his summit with Putin.]

Reis Thebault/Joe Fox/Andrew Ba Tran: 2020 was the deadliest gun violence year in decades. So far, 2021 is worse. I don't regard gun control as something Democrats should focus on -- I'm generally opposed to prohibition of anything that has fairly widespread attraction, but also I think it's an issue that divides Democrats from potential rural and working class allies, at least in the area I live in. But this is a sobering report. What I would like to see people look into and think about is what factors other than the insane number of guns Americans keep buying contribute to the staggering death toll. Twenty-plus years of non-stop war is certainly one of them. Republican efforts to discredit government -- no least through their own malfeasance -- is another. While culture often gets a bum rap for contributing to public delinquency, it is pretty obvious that ours has normalized and glorified gun violence -- going back at least to the 1960s westerns I grew up on. But also something relatively specific to 2020-21 is increasing lawlessness and anti-social behavior on the right, exemplified by the fatuous criminality of Donald Trump, extending throughout his followers.

By the way, I copied down this gun story by Jason Tidd in the Wichita Eagle (I can't link to it, and most likely you couldn't read it if I could):

Police: Wichita boys hurt in accidental shooting had messed with gun

Two boys were hospitalized late Monday night after accidentally shooting themselves while "messing" around with a gun, Wichita Police said.

Officer Charley Davidson said a WPD officer was patrolling through an apartment complex in the 8800 block of East Harry when he heard shouting at around 11:20 p.m. The officer found a 12-year-old boy with a gunshot wound to his hand and a 15-year-old boy with a gunshot wound to his leg.

The boys were taken to a hospital for medical treatment. Their injuries were not life-threatening, police said.

"The investigation revealed that the boys were messing with a handgun when it discharged, striking both of them," Davidson said. ". . . This case is a reminder that guns and kids don't mix."

Davidson, citing research from Nationwide Children's Hospital, said that "guns lead to thousands of deaths and injuries among children every year. Specifically, 1,300 children younger than 18 years of age die from shootings every year."

The organization reports that, "Most of the victims of unintentional shootings are boys. They are usually shot by a friend or relative, especially a brother."

Last week, a 6-year-old Wichita boy was hospitalized after a reportedly accidental shooting. In January, a Wichita teenager accidentally shot himself and a 3-year-old child. In 2019, a 9-year-old boy was accidentally shot and killed by his 11-year-old friend while they played with what they thought was a BB gun they had taken out of a malfunctioning safe.

The article ends with some "gun safety" tips, like "Kids who find a gun should leave it alone and tell an adult." In 2014, I wrote up a post called Guns: The Laundry List (started with a story "about a woman who was killed while doing laundry: a gun fell out of a sock and fired, hitting her"), and provides links for 60 more similar stories (although reading the titles is probably all you need to do), plus some more general background and personal experience. I may not be in favor of banning guns, but I sure wish they would go away. The first step is realizing how stupid, careless, and useless they are.

Matthew Yglesias: "Asset price inflation" is not a thing: During his tenure at Vox, I probably linked to Yglesias more than to anyone else, but I didn't buy his book, and I didn't pony up for his Substack newsletter (even though I would probably read it if it's free). But Mike Konczal linked to this piece and seemed to endorse it, and I've kept it open ever since -- maybe some day I'll approach Konczal and ask, WTF? Reading the piece carefully, I sort of understand that Yglesias is saying that when economists write about inflation, they're only talking about goods and services, and not assets. ("Asset prices going up is not a kind of inflation, just because by definition, that's not what inflation is.") Still, assets have prices, and those prices fluctuate, mostly due to supply and demand. Assets are mostly bought by rich people, so when rich people have more money, their demand for assets should bid up asset prices. So what do you call that? As near as I can tell, most economists don't call it anything. They assume that markets set the perfect prices for assets (and everything else), so when an asset gains value, that can only mean it really is worth more. (It's rather like the notion that when someone walks toward you, they physically get bigger.) Sure, some economists talk of bubbles, but mostly after the fact, when those perfect market gains suddenly disappear. I'm willing to concede that it may be difficult to calculate inflation of assets: sometimes appreciation is real (as when a company finds a new oil field), sometimes it is fraudulent, sometimes it is driven by currency inflation, and often times it merely reflects increasing inequality. Such factors imply different problems and solutions, but each is interesting. Still, Yglesias wants to ignore all that just to focus on conventional definitions, which were politically designed to protect banker profits at the expense of worker jobs and benefits.

I wonder whether both the rich and the left find it politically convenient to accept inflated assets at face value. The former feel richer than they are, even as their relentless pursuit of wealth seems more futile than ever, and the latter can point to even vaster degrees of inequality. On the other hand, if the levers of inequality mostly result in illusory wealth, maybe their political attempts to rig the economy will eventually be seen as futile and self-destructive.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Daily Log

Disassembled front door pinhole camera. Model 2D56A 620066, made in Taiwan. Six straight wire connectors:

  1. GND
  3. +12V IN (disconnected, there is a loose red wire)
  4. GND
  6. GND

DIN connectors are used for 6-pin connections, where: 1: +12V; 2: Audio to Camera; 3: Alarm Signal; 4: NC (no use); 5: Audio from Camera; 6: Video from Camera.

Other camera cables use BNC or RCA connectors. We're using some sort of hybrid cable, which combines a power cable and a video cable. I'm not seeing an exact match for what I understand we have.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 35610 [35564] rated (+46), 214 [217] unrated (-3).

Turned my attention to new music this week, drawing on sources too numerous to recall, but one was Robert Christgau's June 2021 Consumer Guide: I already had graded Gyedu-Blay Ambolley (**), Dry Cleaning (**), Loretta Lynn (A-), Mdou Moctar (A-), and Olivia Rodrigo (A-) graded, and Chai earlier in the week. Bumped up Dry Cleaning's grade, and checked out old EPs. The other "old music" entries were background for current records, unlike the last month-plus, when I've been working off old music lists.

Another source was the highest-rated 2021 album lists at AOTY and Metacritic, although they rarely led to significant finds. Working as fast as I do, I rarely spend enough time on a record to get a deep feel for whatever's unique about it. So what I offer are first impressions, hoping that breadth makes up for lack of depth.

Finally, it occurred to me that there must be some mid-year best-of lists popping up. I searched out a few, and added the records mentioned to my hitherto skeletal tracking file. The lists I consulted are (unranked, unless noted):

In past year, I would have been tempted to tote them up, but I've given up on that sort of tracking this year. I doubt I can even guess most of a top ten, but most likely are (in alpha order): Julien Baker, Nick Cave/Warren Ellis, Japanese Breakfast, Olivia Rodrigo, St. Vincent, and/or Wolf Alice, with J. Cole about the only hip-hop breakout, and Floating Points and Sons of Kemet possible jazz crossovers. My own picks, which include two of the above (Rodrigo and Sons of Kemet) are here. (Note that with 26 A/A- in what we'll generously call 4 months, I'm on track to wind up with 78, which would be my shortest list since the 1990s, if not much farther back. The current jazz/non-jazz breakdown is 16/10.)

I did an update of the Christgau website tonight, picking up five months of Consumer Guides (although the timelock is, if memory serves, eight months, so you can't read them there, but the records do show up in various indexes, like this 2021 release index. Christgau has 13 A/A- grades on new music releases.

I especially want to point out Perfect Sound Forever's Ed Ward Tribute, with Jason Gross interviewing Greil Marcus. Would be lovely if Marcus were to follow up with an anthology of Ed's writings (and broadcast transcripts?), like he did for Lester Bangs.

I've had a number of horribly frustrating days, which I realize would probably sound silly if I tried to enumerate my complaints. One thing clear is that as one gets older, little things get ever more troubling. The biggest of the little things was that I spent a couple hours working on installing some porch railing, and wound up behind where I was when I started. Doesn't help that it's gotten so hot the least exertion fails me.

One thing I can announce is that I'll return with a new version of my links-plus-comments post. I'm thinking it will come out on Fridays, and the focus will be on picking pieces I want to comment on, as opposed to ones I merely wanted to keep track of. I won't call it Weekend Roundup, or any kind of Roundup, as that isn't the intent. Tentatively I'll revert to my old Weekly Links, but I hope I can come up with something better.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Susan Alcorn/Leila Bordreuil/Ingrid Laubrock: Bird Meets Wire (2018 [2021], Relative Pitch): [r]: B+(*)
  • Michael Bisio/Kirk Knuffke/Fred Lonberg-Holm: The Art Spirit (2018 [2021], ESP-Disk): [cd]: B+(***) [06-25]
  • Black Midi: Cavalcade (2021, Rough Trade): [r]: B
  • Namir Blade: Namir Blade Presents Aphelion's Traveling Circus (2020, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chai: Wink (2021, Sub Pop): [r]: B+(**)
  • DJ Black Low: Uwami (2021, Awesome Tapes From Africa): [bc]: A-
  • Nahawa Doumbia: Kanawa (2018-20 [2021], Awesome Tapes From Africa): [bc]: B+(***)
  • James Francies: Purest Form (2021, Blue Note): [r]: B-
  • Girl in Red: If I Could Make It Go Quiet (2021, AWAL): [r]: B+(***)
  • Japanese Breakfast: Jubilee (2021, Dead Oceans): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jonathan Karrant/Joshua White: Shadows Fall (2021, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Kuzu: The Glass Delusion (2018 [2021], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Andy Fairweather Low & the Low Riders: Lockdown Live (2020 [2021], Secret): [r]: B+(*)
  • Vic Mensa: I Tape (2021, Roc Nation, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ashley Monroe: Rosegold (2021, Mountainrose Sparrow): [r]: B
  • Naeem: Startisha (2020, 37d03d): [r]: A-
  • Larry Ochs-Donald Robinson Duo: A Civil Right (2018-19 [2021], ESP-Disk): [cd]: B+(***) [06-25]
  • Genesis Owusu: Smiling With No Teeth (2021, Ourness/House Anxiety): [r]: B+(***)
  • Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble: Warszawa 2019 (2019 [2021], Funcadja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ralph Peterson: Raise Up Off Me (2020 [2021], Onyx Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chris Potter Circuits Trio: Sunrise Reprise (2020 [2021], Edition): [r]: B
  • Dave Rempis/Tomeka Reid/Joshua Abrams/Tim Daisy/Tyler Damon: The Covid Tapes: Solos, Duos, & Trios (2020 [2021], Aerophonic, 2CD): [cd]: A- [06-15]
  • Serengeti: KDxMPC (2020, self-released, EP): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Serengeti: Curse of the Polo (2021, self-released): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Squid: Bright Green Field (2021, Warp): [r]: B+(**)
  • St. Vincent: Daddy's Home (2021, Loma Vista): [r]: B+(**)
  • Thomas Strønen/Ayumi Tanaka/Marthe Lea: Bayou (2018 [2021], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales (2021, RCA): [r]: B+(*)
  • Too Much Joy: Mistakes Were Made (2021, People Suck Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Marta Warelis/Frank Rosaly/Aaron Lumley/John Dikeman: Sunday at De Ruimte (2020 [2021], Doek RAW): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Wolf Alice: Blue Weekend (2021, Dirty Hit): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Duck Baker: Confabulations (1994-2017 [2021], ESP-Disk): [cd]: A- [06-25]
  • Billy Bang: Lucky Man (2008 [2021], BBE, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hailu Mergia & the Walias Band: Tezeta (1975 [2021], Awesome Tapes From Africa): [bc]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Duck Baker: There's Something for Everyone in America (1975, Kicking Mule): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duck Baker: The King of Bongo Bong (1977, Kicking Mule): [r]: A-
  • Duck Baker: Les Blues Du Richmond: Demos & Outtakes 1973-1979 (1973-79 [2018], Tompkins Square): [r]: B+(**)
  • Duck Baker: Plymouth Rock: Unreleased & Rare Recordings, 1973-1979 (1973-79 [2020], Tompkins Square): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duck Baker: Spinning Song: Duck Baker Plays the music of Herbie Nichols (1995-96 [1996], Avant): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duck Baker: The Roots & Branches of American Music (2009, Les Cousins): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dry Cleaning: Sweet Princess (2018 [2019], It's OK, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dry Cleaning: Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks (2019, It's OK, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lisle Ellis: What We Live Fo(u)r (1994 [1996], Black Saint): [r]: B+(*)
  • What We Live: Never Was (1996 [1998], Black Saint): [r]: B+(***)
  • What We Live: Trumpets (1996-98 [1999], Black Saint): [r]: B+(***)
  • What We Live: Quintet for a Day (1998 [1999], New World): [r]: B+(**)

Further Sampling:

Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

  • What Goes On: The Songs of Lou Reed (1967-2019 [2021], Ace): [r]: ++

Grade (or other) changes:

  • Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg (2021, 4AD): [r]: [was: B+(**)]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Rebecca Angel: Just the Two of Us (Timeless Grooves) [04-23]
  • Rebecca Angel: Love Life Choices (Timeless Grooves) [06-11]
  • Samo Salamon/Hasse Poulsen: String Dancers (Sazas) [09-01]
  • Natsuki Tamura: Koki Solo (Libra) [07-09]

Friday, June 11, 2021

Daily Log

Tweeted today:

Headline today: "The Endless Cycle of Outrage and Reform Over Policing in America." I can see where outrage can lead to reform, but not the opposite. Isn't it the failure of reform that leads to more outrage? And isn't failure a sign that the reform was inadequate to start?

Marianne Cowan Pyeatt posted a meme which showed a picture of a QT gas station price board with unleaded at $1.569, and read: "BACK IN THE GOOD OLE' DAYS." and "7 MONTHS AGO......." I've never commented on her memes or posts, but did this time:

You've got to be kidding. The only good thing about 7 months ago was that Trump had lost, but he was still in office, plotting his insurrection. He said you'd never hear about Covid again after election day, but daily case count had increased from 150,000 in early November to 200,000 in early December, on its way to a peak of 300,779 on January 8. The economy was in a coma, so of course gas was cheap. We were locked down so hard I spent 2-3 months between refills, so the price of gas meant nothing to me and many others. I'm not sure there were any "good old days" in my 70 years, but 2017-20 was the worst. I thank God every day that Trump lost. I only wish he had taken more Republicans with him.

I shared the meme, and wrote this:

This meme appeared in a friend's feed, and I thought it was so spectacularly wrongheaded I should not only comment (first time ever for this friend) but share, with my own comments. First, I'm not sure that in my 70+ years there have been any "good ole' days" -- I'm working on a memoir, so I've been thinking a lot about that -- but there have been bad days. Two earlier stretches stand out: the escalation of the American war in Vietnam from 1965 to 1972, and the "War on Terror" from 2001 on were more calamitous, but for general, pervasive rot (both mental and moral) nothing else comes close to Trump's 2017-2020. So using this phrase, where the emphasis is usually on old, to describe the tail end of Trump's presidency is perverse. Also, if you do the math, 7 months only gets you back to early December, after Trump's loss, but while he was still in the White House, planning his insurrection. I can't imagine why a Trump fan would pick that moment, other than to highlight the relatively low gas prices, as if that's the difference between then and now that matters. Gas prices dropped over the course of 2020 because the economy was mired in a coma -- we traveled so little that I could go 2-3 months between refilling. Millions of Americans had come down with Covid-19, and more than 500,000 had died. You may recall Trump saying that after election day nobody would mention Covid again, and this meme is testimony to the blinkered memory of his fans. But for the rest of us, by early December we were seeing 200,000 new cases per day, on way to peak at 300,779 on January 8. Gas prices are rising now (still way below where they were under GW Bush) because people are getting vaccinated and rejoining the economy. As I noted in my comment, I thank God (and an absolute majority of American voters) every day for Trump's loss. I only wish we had taken more Republicans with him.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Daily Log

One of my rare political tweets:

Lesson from the Keystone XL pipeline cancellation and the political tantrums that followed: Republicans want the environmental degradation more than the company wanted the marginal returns on a large and risky investment in a declining industry.

Monday, June 07, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 35564 [35522] rated (+42), 217 [208] unrated (+9).

Saddened to hear that Frederic J. Fleron, Jr., died last week. Odd that I haven't found an obituary yet -- I did find one for his mother, Esther, from 1998, but it always seemed like fame was his due. He came into my life as Fritz, when he married my cousin, Lou Jean, and was a huge influence until they divorced. He got a Ph.D. in political science at Indiana, and taught at Kentucky and SUNY Buffalo. His specialty was Soviet Studies, and has his name on several academic books, but seemed to slow down with tenure. He came from a ritzy family, and struck me as a boisterous bon vivant, as well as a serious intellectual. He broadened my horizons, and inspired me to persevere through a very tough period in my life (not that my cousin didn't have even greater influence).

I became reacquainted with him sometime after 2000. I was visiting my cousin. He recognized me in a Buffalo record store, and came up and started talking. I remember him as being into old blues, which now included a fair sampling of folk and country. He occasionally sent me mixtapes. I didn't reciprocate, because I've never done that sort of thing, but I did return occasional tips and reviews. I follow him and their daughter Ingeri on Facebook, which is where I learned of his death. He was quite a character, and will be remembered and missed.

[PS: Here's an obituary for Fred Fleron.]

I made a minor change to the Christgau website recently: I was fixing a security issue with the "Google Search" widget, and decided it would be better to target a new tab for the search results, since going to them would lose the website's navigation menus.

A bit later, I thought I should have that same functionality on my website. Turns out I had implemented it some time back, but it was only showing up on some pages. It shows up on more now, although the historic sprawl has left some pages with older framing. Reminds me that a redesign is in order, but unlikely any time soon.

Redesigning the Christgau website is a higher priority -- one that I've made very little progress towards. I did catch up the Consumer Guide database last week (still not public; probably later this week, but the new stuff is embargoed, anyway; may wait until his June CG comes out).

I started this week off by noticing a Randy Sandke reissue in Napster's featured jazz list. Turns out that a lot of Nagel Heyer releases are now available, so I took a dive, which shortly led me to saxophonist Harry Allen. Nagel Heyer is a German label which released a fair amount of retro-swing in the 1990s and afters. One problem with their discography is that they have a bad habit of reissuing old records under new titles, often changing the artist credits as well. I ran across several such cases below, finally noting it on the Butch Miles release(s).

Harry Allen is one of my favorite saxophonists, so his dive went further. He developed a big following in Japan in the 1990s, with BMG releasing 3-4 records per year there -- only a few appeared in the US on RCA. I've long been frustrated by inability to find those titles, but Slider reissued the Japanese BMG/Novus records in 2007, and they're now on Napster (and probably other streaming sources).

Still, half of this week's A-list records are new music. Having listened to very little new non-jazz over the last couple months, it was easy to pick promising candidates off lists presented on the Expert Witness Facebook Group (one from Sidney Carpenter-Wilson proved most useful: his only A-list album I didn't check out was Black Midi, and the others scored *** or better, while a couple items from his B-list beat the odds). [PS: Gave Black Midi a B: "started better, ended worse."]

I'll follow up on more tips next week, including the latest from Phil Overeem, plus whatever Christgau comes up with. (Meanwhile, enjoying Awesome Tapes From Africa at the moment, especially DJ Black Low.)

Unpacking up this week, after a recent drought, so suddenly I'm behind on new jazz. Still not much there (other than Dave Rempis' The Covid Tapes) I'm really looking forward to. When I do bother to check sources, it seems like I'm getting very few of the top-tier albums (i.e., by artists I'll check out because everyone else will). I didn't have to look beyond Napster's featured list to find Tony Allen, Jaimie Branch, Dave Holland, and Sons of Kemet -- only two of those I knew were coming.

Managed some minor home projects, including a couple bathroom items (faucet aerator, grab bar mounted on tile) that had vexed me for a long time. Trying to figure out what to do about a faulty air conditioner this week -- troubleshoot, repair or replace? I'm already bothered by the heat, and it hasn't hit 90F yet (although it will by Wednesday).

Approaching the end of Jack E. Davis' The Gulf, where he gets into the chemical pollution allowed by the right-wing political regimes in the region, especially in Texas and Louisiana. This after the environmental destruction in Florida, which was mostly the work of developers. One might hope that some of this has been reversed, but for four years Trump gave clear signals to pollute all you want, and the impact of that takes time to accumulate. How much we will pay for the folly of letting his corrupt regime take power is still unfathomable. (Of course, it's not just the Gulf. Look at Turkey this week.)

Part of the reason is that it's hard to see where real change might come from. While the right-wing gets ever uglier, we're still beset by people (especially in the media) willing to patronize them. Especially ugly this week is Netanyahu's panic over the agreement to make someone else (Naftali Bennett, if that matters) prime minister of Israel. Looks like the intent there is to show Trump what a real coup looks like. (See: Shin Bet chief warns against Netanyahu incitement to political violence.) And speaking of ugly, consider this: Younger brother of Michael Flynn takes command of US Army Pacific.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Harry Allen/Mike Karn: Milo's Illinois (2021, GAC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tony Allen: There Is No End (2020 [2021], Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Aly & AJ: A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun (2021, Aly & AJ Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die Live (2020 [2021], International Anthem): [r]: A-
  • The Chills: Scatterbrain (2021, Fire): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dave Holland: Another Land (2020 [2021], Edition): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jack Ingram/Miranda Lambert/Jon Randall: The Marfa Tapes (2021, RCA Nashville): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gabor Lesko: Earthway (2021, Creativity's Paradise Music): [cd]: B
  • The Linda Lindas: The Linda Lindas (2020, self-released, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • L'Orange & Namir Blade: Imaginary Everything (2021, Mello Music Group): [r]: A-
  • Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victime (2021, Matador): [r]: A-
  • Maria Muldaur With Tuba Skinny: Let's Get Happy Together (2021, Stony Plain): [r]: A-
  • Olivia Rodrigo: Sour (2021, Geffen): [r]: A-
  • Paul Silbergleit: The Hidden Standard (2018 [2021], BluJazz): [cd]: B-
  • Ches Smith/We All Break: Path of Seven Colors (2015-20 [2021], Pyroclastic, 2CD): [cd]: A- [06-11]
  • Sons of Kemet: Black to the Future (2021, Impulse!): [r]: A

Old music:

  • The Harry Allen-Keith Ingham Quintet: Are You Having Any Fun? A Celebration of the Music of Sammy Fain (1994, Audiophile): [r]: B+(**)
  • Harry Allen: Tenors Anyone? (1996 [1997], BMG Novus): [r]: A-
  • Harry Allen: Here's to Zoot (1997, BMG Novus): [r]: B+(***)
  • Harry Allen/Randy Sandke: Turnstile: Music of the Trumpet Kings (1997 [2007], Nagel Heyer): [r]: B
  • Harry Allen: Day Dream (1998, BMG Novus): [r]: A-
  • Harry Allen: When I Grow Too Old to Dream (1999 [2000], BMG Novus): [r]: B+(***)
  • Harry Allen: One Upon a Summertime (1999, BMG Novus): [r]: B+(***)
  • Harry Allen: Cole Porter Songbook (2001, BMG Novus): [r]: B+(***)
  • Harry Allen: Dreamer (2001, BMG Novus): [r]: B
  • Harry Allen: I Can See Forever (2002, BMG Novus): [r]: B+(*)
  • Harry Allen: I Love Mancini (2002, BMG Novus): [r]: B
  • Harry Allen: The Harry Allen Quartet (2003, self-released): [r]: A-
  • Harry Allen/Joe Cohn: The Harry Allen & Joe Cohn Quartet (2005, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Harry Allen/Rossano Sportiello: Conversations: The Johnny Burke Songbook (2011, GAC): [r]: A-
  • Harry Allen: Love Songs Only! (1993-2001 [2013], Nagel Heyer): [r]: B
  • Alan Barnes/Harry Allen: Barnestorming (2006 [2007], Woodville): [r]: B+(*)
  • Butch Miles and Friends: Cookin' (1995, Nagel Heyer): [r]: B+(***)
  • Butch Miles and Howard Alden: Soulmates (1995 [2002], Nagel Heyer): [r]: B+(***)
  • New York Allstars: The Bix Beiderbecke Era (1993, Nagel Heyer): [r]: B+(**)
  • The New York Allstars: We Love You, Louis! (1995 [1996], Nagel Heyer): [r]: B+(*)
  • Randy Sandke: Randy Sandke Meets Bix Beiderbecke (1993 [2002], Nagel Heyer): [r]: B+(**)
  • Randy Sandke and the Buck Clayton Legacy: All the Cats Join In (1993 [1994], Nagel Heyer): [r]: B+(***)
  • Randy Sandke and the New York Allstars: The Re-Discovered Louis and Bix (1999 [2000], Nagel Heyer): [r]: A-
  • Vladimir Shafranov Meets Harry Allen With Hans Backenroth/Bengt Stark: Dear Old Stockholm (2016, Venus): [r]: B+(**)
  • Shaolin Afronauts: Flight of the Ancients (2011, Freestyle): [r]: A-
  • Shaolin Afronauts: Quest Under Capricorn (2012, Freestyle): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rossano Sportiello/Matthias Seuffert: Swingin' Duo by the Lago (2005-06 [2008], Styx): [r]: B+(*)
  • Allan Vaché and Harry Allen: Allan and Allen (2001 [2002], Nagel Heyer): [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Duck Baker: Confabulations (1994-2017, ESP-Disk) [06-25]
  • Keshav Batish: Binaries in Cycle (Woven Strands) [07-10]
  • Michael Bisio/Kirk Knuffke/Fred Lonberg-Holm: The Art Spirit (ESP-Disk) [06-25]
  • Dan Dean: Fanfare for the Common Man (Origin Classical) [06-18]
  • Sean Michael Giddings: Red Willow (Origin) [06-18]
  • Doug Lofstrom: Music for Strings (Origin Classical) [06-18]
  • Jason Nazary: Spring Collection (We Jazz) [06-25]
  • Larry Ochs-Donald Robinson Duo: A Civil Right (ESP-Disk) [06-25]
  • Pluto Juice: Pluto Juice (Contagious Music) [07-16]
  • Will St Peter/Steven Heffner/Steve Barnes: Honestly (Origin) [06-18]
  • Marta Warelis/Frank Rosaly/Aaron Lumley/John Dikeman: Sunday at De Ruimte (Doek RAW)

Friday, June 04, 2021

Daily Log

Sidney Carpenter-Wilson May 2021 listening report:

Sons of Kemet: Black to the Future [A]
The Chills: Scatterbrain [***]
Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victime [A-]
No-No Boy: 1975 [A-]
Khaira Arby: Live in New York 2010 [A-]
Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert & Jon Randall: The Marfa Tapes [***]
James Brandon Lewis: Jesup Wagon [A-]
black midi: Cavalcade [B]
Olivia Rodrigo: SOUR [A-]
Aly & AJ: a touch of the beat gets you up on your feet gets you out and then into the sun [*]
Bachelor, Jay Som & Palehound: Doomin' Sun
serengeti: curse of the polo [*]
DUDA BEAT: Te Amo Lá Fora
Rochelle Jordan: Play With the Changes
L'Orange & Namir Blade: Imaginary Everything [A-]
Maria Muldaur & Tuba Skinny: Let's Get Happy Together [A-]
Honorable Mentions
81355: This Time I'll Be of Use
Mannequin Pussy: Perfect - EP
Iceage: Seek Shelter
Young M.A.: Off the Yak
Mach-Hommy: Pray for Haiti
easy life: life's a beach
Weezer: Van Weezer
Allison Russel: Outside Child
Serengeti: Keep Winning 
Tee Grizzley: Built for Whatever
Mustafa: When Smoke Rises
But Not For Me
The Black Keys: Delta Kream
Juliana Hatfield: Blood
St. Vincent: Daddy's Home
Jorja Smith: Be Right Back
Squid: Bright Green Field
J. Cole: The Off-Season

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Daily Log

Jim Marsh posted this on Bobby Jenkins (photo link):

Sharing a post from H. David Pendleton to old childhood neighborhood friends about Bobby Jenkins. Linda may be too young to remember Bobby. We also called him R.E. Thank you for your service and sacrifice Bobby.

"Sergeant (SGT) Robert Earl "Bobby" Jenkins was born on 3 August 1947 and listed Wichita, Sedgwick County, Kansas as his Home of Record with the military. He died on 19 May 1968 in Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam at the age of 20 due to an explosive device He is buried in the White Chapel Memorial Gardens in Wichita, Sedgwick County, Kansas.

Bobby was an Infantryman (MOS 11B) in the Army and must have been proficient having been promoted to SGT with so little time in service. He arrived in Vietnam on 6 October 1967 and joined B Company, 1st Battalion, 52nd Infantry Regiment, 198 Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. The 52nd is a relatively young regiment whose history only dates back to World War I. Units of the 52nd are still around and fought in Afghanistan. The unit was given the nickname "Ready Rifles" and its motto is Fortis et Certus (Brave and True)

"Bobby is carrying the M-60 Machine Gun in the photo. The M-60 Machine Gun was the most important weapon in an infantry platoon. The platoon's 2 M-60s provided as much firepower as all other M-14s/M-16s combined. This must have been taken when he was not a sergeant because he would have relinquished his position as Machine Gunner when he became a Team Leader."

SGT Jenkins military decorations include the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Division, and the Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB). SGT Jenkins place on the Vietnam Wall is on Panel E63, Line 11."

Steve Hull commented:

Thank you for posting this. Bobby picked on and teased me relentlessly. I am better for his time. He was a top athlete. Loved fast cars and knew how to fix them. He was supposed to be on leave that week. He traded with someone who needed it more. He was smart, tough, and a leader. A bright future lost too early.

Linda Appelhans [Joplin] commented:

I do remember Bobby, we were next door neighbors. He was older than me so we didn't really know each other very well. I remember how his death in Vietnam shook our neighborhood. Thanks for sharing this, Jim.

I commented:

Thanks for sharing this post. Virtually all the kids, at least on our side of the street, were younger than me: Wayne and Bobby were the exceptions, but Wayne was so much older I never had much to do with him. Bobby used to come over and shoot baskets -- trying to play against him was ridiculous, so we mostly played HORSE. As he got older, he pulled away. He got a Pontiac GTO, and always burned rubber from his driveway to Blake, hitting 50 before skidding around the corner. I never thought of him as being smart -- just a big jock who could be a lout. He left, got married, had a kid, got sent to Vietnam, and died senselessly. I was already totally against the War, but his death made it personal, and I've often thought of him. (There was, by the way, another guy, who grew up just on the other side of Blake, who got killed in Vietnam -- can't remember his name, but have a vague picture in my mind.) I hated every aspect of the American War in Vietnam, but the one that Bobbie's death signified to me was how callously the generals wasted the lives of draftees. One last point is that Tony worshiped Bobby, and was hugely affected by his death. Tony once told me that he was haunted by death. His parents were gone by then, maybe Wayne too, but I took that as mostly about Bobby.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, May archive (finished).

Music: Current count 35522 [35475] rated (+47), 208 [214] unrated (-6).

Mostly old music again, continuing down the unheard Christgau list from Sir Douglas Quintet/Doug Sahm to Butch Thompson. As I'm mostly stopping for Christgau A-listers, my own grades are skewed considerably above the usual curve. I'm 71% through the file, so I'm a couple weeks from ending my first pass (and I skipped bunches of things I didn't feel like at the time). One problem I run into a lot is compilations that are no longer in print. In most cases, I can match them with song lists picked up from other compilations, so that's what I'm doing. If I'm missing 1-3 songs, I can usually pick them up on YouTube, not that the experience is the same. YouTube has been a valuable fallback, but also a nuisance, especially when it automatically segues to something else. I almost never play something twice there, which may be why Dook of the Beatniks stalled out for me.

May archive is finished, but I haven't done the requisite indexing, or unpacked the usual Music Week comments. I'll get to them later in the week. Beginning to feel like taking some time to see what else is new, but it's easier to keep ticking off a list. Another one that might be worth exploring is this one by Brazil Beat.

While working on Peter Stampfel albums this week, I found this interview, and thought it may be of interest, both on the new box and damn near everything that came before it. Among many items of interest is a discussion of Allen Lowe's latest (and greatest) project, Turn Me Loose White Man (30 CDs, plus notes on every song -- when I bought my copy, I only got one book, but the second volume came in the mail last week, so new buyers should be the whole package; link here).

Robert Christgau wrote a review of Eric Weisbard's Songbooks: The Literature of American Popular Music. I like the idea of a book about books, so ordered a copy. Back in my teens, I developed a technique for speed-reading American history books: just read the footnotes, which is where academic historians consign their own opinions, and the bibliography (especially if it is annotated). I learned a helluva lot that way. (Of course, I also had the benefit of Robert Wine's 8th grade Amerian history course -- by far the best grade school teacher I ever had. Much later, I came up with a game: go to bookstore, pick up E.D. Hirsch's Cultural Literacy and go to a random page, check whether you knew the item. I always did, and a good 80% of the items I recalled learning in Wine's class. Of course, that also says something about Hirsch.) The footnotes give you perspective, some insight into how the author thinks, and also a quick sense of what others understand about the subject. Even more useful was pouring over John A. Garraty's Historical Viewpoints, a large book of interviews with prominent American historians. (Later came out in two paperback volumes -- long out of print and damn hard to find.) Hoping Weisbard's book will provide a similar map.

Took Friday off and cooked a nice Greek dinner. Looked like this: clockwise from top right: pastisio (mac and cheese on top of ground lamb, eggplant, and tomatoes), horiatiki (chopped salad), baked lemon fish with potatoes, saganaki (fried cheese), and sweetbreads. Had walnut cake for dessert, soaked in a honey syrup.

I wrote a postscript to my Damage Assessment piece on the latest atrocities in Gaza, with my latest thinking on how to reverse and repair the tragedy of Israel's moral descent. (Occurs to me that it's been a while since I last heard the IDF described as the world's most moral military -- no, they haven't stopped lying, but no longer consider that something to boast about.) I thought I should clarify my thoughts on political strategy, lest the proposal be misconstrued as urging simple capitulation to Israel. (I wasn't able to make the link jump directly to the PS, so you'll need to scroll down.)

Seeing a lot of flag-waving soldier fetishism in the paper, on Facebook, and elsewhere today, including a lot of "ultimate sacrifice for our freedom." I can think of a lot of dead people to mourn, and a lot of family members who were in the military, but not many who died there, and not many who made a big deal out of it. My grandfather went to Europe in the Great War, and came back with medals, but hardly ever talked about it. All four of his sons served, and Bob got shot in WWII and was semi-disabled. My father was in San Francisco waiting to get shipped out when the war ended. They sent him back home to build airplanes -- something he was better at. He thought his time in the Army was the dumbest thing he ever did. My mother's siblings were mostly too young for WWI and too old for WWII, but one brother got in each, as did a few of their children. All survived, but Uncle Allen was killed in a car accident soon after. One second cousin was killed in Vietnam, but under suspicious circumstances: official story is his gun accidentally discharged while he was in a tank, but the alternate story where he was fragged. I've known other people who were killed or maimed in Vietnam -- all were terrible wastes. Uncle James did a tour in Vietnam, but he was an aircraft mechanic and never got off the base. Over the last two decades, some younger relatives (as far as I know, all from Arkansas or Oklahoma) signed up. Always struck me as a waste, but I'm not aware of anything really bad happening to them.

I can think of many people who contributed to our freedom and well being, in many ways, but soldiering wasn't one of them. Maybe you can make a case that the Civil War -- my mother's great-grandfather and two of his sons fought in that one, for Ohio, only moving to Arkansas after the war -- and WWII were worth the fight, but neither followed up with the sort of reconstruction needed to establish freedom and justice for all, which is one reason why wars with noble slogans -- like "the war to end all wars" and "the war to make the world safe for democracy" -- only led to more wars. Another reason is that with holidays like Memorial Day we pretend they were something they weren't.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Fail Better!: The Fall (2017 [2021], JACC): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Doug MacDonald: Live in Hawaii (2019 [2021], DMAC Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Keith Oxman/Frank Morelli: The Ox-Mo Incident (2019 [2021], Capri): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Wadada Leo Smith: Trumpet (2016 [2021], TUM, 3CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Wadada Leo Smith: Sacred Ceremonies (2015-16 [2021], TUM, 3CD): [cd]: A-
  • Butch Thompson & Southside Aces With Charlie Devore: How Long Blues (2019 [2020], Southside Aces): [r]: B+(*)
  • João Valinho/Luis Vicente/Marcelo dos Reis/Salvoandrea Lucifora: Light Machina (2020 [2021], Multikulti Project): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Marta Warelis/Carlos "Zingaro"/Helena Espvall/Marcelo dos Reis: Turqoise Dream (2019 [2021], JACC): [cd]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Blue Muse ([2019], Music Maker Foundation): [bc]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • The Nagel Heyer Allstars: Uptown Lowdown: A Jazz Salute to the Big Apple: Live at the 1999 JVC Festival New York (1999 [2000], Nagel Heyer): [r]: B+(***)
  • Doug Sahm With the Sir Douglas Quintet: Rough Edges (1969 [1973], Mercury): [r]: B+(***)
  • Doug Sahm & the Sir Douglas Quintet: The Best of Doug Sahm & the Sir Douglas Quintet 1968-1975 (1968-75 [1990], Mercury): [r]: A-
  • Doug Sahm: Hell of a Spell (1979 [1980], Takoma): [r]: B+(***)
  • Doug Sahm: Junk Box Music (1989, Antone's): [r]: B+(**)
  • Doug Sahm: The Last Real Texas Blues Band (1988-94 [1994], Antone's): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sir Douglas Quintet: The Best of Sir Douglas Quintet (1965-66 [1966], Tribe): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sir Douglas Quintet: The Best of Sir Douglas Quintet . . . Plus! (1965-67 [2000], Westside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sir Douglas Quintet + 2: Honkey Blues (1968, Smash): [r]: B
  • Sir Douglas Quintet: Mendocino (1969, Smash): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sir Douglas Quintet: Together After Five (1970, Smash): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sir Douglas Quintet: 1+1+1=4 (1970, Philips): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sir Douglas Quintet: The Return of Doug Saldaña (1971, Philips): [r]: A-
  • Sir Douglas Quintet: The Best of the Sir Douglas Quintet (1968-71 [1980], Takoma): [r]: A-
  • Percy Sledge: The Very Best of Percy Sledge (1966-94 [1998], Rhino): [r]: A-
  • Spinners: Spinners (1973, Atlantic): [r]: A-
  • Spinners: Mighty Love (1974, Atlantic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Spinners: New and Improved (1974, Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Spinners: Pick of the Litter (1975, Atlantic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Spinners: Happiness Is Being With the Spinners (1976, Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Spinners: The Best of Spinners (1972-76 [1978], Atlantic): [r]: A-
  • Peter Stampfel: Dook of the Beatniks (1999 [2010], Piety Street Files & Archaic): [yt]: B+(***)
  • Peter + Zoë Stampfel: Ass in the Air (2010, Jolly Olga): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steel Pulse: Reggae Greats (1978-80 [1984], Mango): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gary Stewart: Greatest Hits (1975-81 [1981], RCA): [r]: A-
  • Gary Stewart: The Essential Gary Stewart (1974-82 [1997], RCA): [r]: A-
  • Gary Stewart: Live at Billy Bob's Texas (2003, Smith Music Group): [r]: A-
  • Super Mama Djombo: Super Mama Djombo (1980 [2003], Cobiana): [r]: B+(***)
  • Systema Solar: Systema Solar (2009 [2010], Chusma): [r]: A-
  • Howard Tate: Howard Tate (1967 [1969], Verve): [r]: A-
  • Howard Tate: Howard Tate's Reaction (1970, Turntable): [r]: B+(**)
  • Howard Tate: Howard Tate (1972, Atlantic): [r]: A-
  • Hound Dog Taylor & the Houserockers: Beware of the Dog (1974 [1976], Alligator): [r]: A-
  • Hound Dog Taylor & the Houserockers: Genuine Houserocking Music (1971-73 [1982], Alligator): [r]: B+(***)
  • Johnnie Taylor: Chronicle: 20 Greatest Hits (1968-75 [1977], Fantasy): [r]: A-
  • Irma Thomas: Sweet Soul Queen of New Orleans: The Irma Thomas Collection (1961-66 [1996], Razor & Tie): [r]: A-
  • Butch Thompson: Butch Thompson Plays Jelly Roll Morton Solos (1968 [1998], Biograph): [r]: B+(***)
  • Butch Thompson: Butch Plays Joplin (1997 [1998], Daring): [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Paul Silbergleit: The Hidden Standard (BluJazz) [05-23]